Skip to main content

Full text of "Recent Essays And Writings"

See other formats

CO >; 00 

164920 ^ 



By the same Author 

Glimpses of World History 2 vols. 
Letters from a Father to His Daughter 
Whither India? 
A Window in Prison and Prison-land 

Recent Essays and Writings 





Seventeen City Road 

First Published April 1934 
Second Impression May 1934 





During the last six months Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru 
has contributed many articles to the press and has issued 
many statements. Some of these articles entitled 'Whither 
India?' 'A Window in Prison,* and 'Prison-land' have 
already appeared in pamphlet form. The others are spread 
out in the columns of newspapers and it is not easy to refer 
to them. Enquiries are often made for these writings and 
the Publishers have collected these which appear to have 
more than a passing value, in this booklet. No attempt 
has been made here to collect all the statements and writ- 
ings of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru during the last six 

April 1934 



Whither India? 1 

Some Criticisms Considered . . . . . . 25 

Further Criticisms . . . . . . . . 38 

Hindu Mahasabha and Communalism . . . . 43 

Hindu and Muslim Communalism . . . . 45 

A Reply to Sir Mohammad Iqbal . . . . . . 60 

Reality and Myth 70 

A Window in Prison 80 

Prison-land . . . . 88 

The Andaman Prisoners . . . . . . 108 

M. N. Roy 110 

The Indian Struggle for Freedom . . . . 113 

A Letter to England . . . . . . . . 121 

Fascism and Communism . . . . . . 125 

Labour and the Congress . . . . . . 127 

Trade Union Congress . . . . . . . . 130 

Indian States . . . . . . . . . . 133 

Civics and Politics . . . . . . . 135 

The Civic Ideal 137 

A Shadow Conference . . . . . . 140 

A Message to the Prayag Mahila Vidyapitha . . 143 


The newcomer from prison has long been cut off from 
the rough and tumble of life and politics, and yet he has a 
certain advantage on his side. He can take a more detached 
view; he is not so much wrapped up in the controversies 
of the moment; he may be able to stress principles when 
others argue about petty tactics; he may actually see the 
realities under the surface of ever-changing phenomena. 

Many people ask: What are we to do? The mouths 
of most of those who could answer, or help in framing the 
answer are shut either in prison or outside. But free advice, 
often accompanied by threats, comes to us in an unend- 
ing stream from those who rule us and their faithful 
followers in this land. They warn us and threaten us 
and cajole us and offer us good advice by turns, anxious 
to influence us and yet uncertain of the right approach 
to us. Let us leave them and their advice for the moment; 
such gifts, even when free, are apt to be suspect. 

Right action cannot come out of nothing; it must be 
preceded by thought. Thought which is not meant to 
lead to action has been called an abortion; action which is 
not based on thought is chaos and confusion. It is worth- 
while therefore to clear our minds of all the tangled webs 
that may have grown there, to forget for the moment the 
immediate problems before us, the difficult knots we have 
to unravel, the day to day worries, and go back a little 
to basic facts and principles. What exactly do we want? 


And why do we want it? 

I write with diffidence because I have for long been 
cut off from the nationalist press, but I have a feeling 
that little attention is paid to these basic facts and prin- 
ciples. The censorship may be partly to blame for this, 
or the fear of it, but even that, I think, is not a sufficient 
explanation. Attention seems to be concentrated on the 
most trivial of issues and vital matters are ignored. Should 
Gandhiji see the Viceroy or not? Will Stanley Baldwin 
triumph over Winston Churchill? What has Sir Samuel 
Hoare said or not said? Are we going to get that wonder- 
ful thing called "Central Responsibility" or not? Hardly 
a reference to what we are driving at, hardly a thought of 
real issues. 

Never in the long range of history has the world been 
in such a state of flux as it is to-day. Never has there been 
so much anxious questioning, so much doubt and bewilder- 
ment, so much examining of old institutions, existing ills 
and suggested remedies. There is a continuous process of 
change and revolution going on all over the world, and 
everywhere anxious statesmen are Almost at their wits' 
end and grope about in the dark. It is obvious that we 
are a part of this great world problem and must be affected 
by world events. And yet, judging from the attention 
paid to these events in India, one would not think so. 
Major events are recorded in the news columns of papers 
but little attempt is made to see behind and beneath them, 
to understand the forces that are shaking and reforming 
the world before our eyes, to comprehend the essential 
nature of social, economic, and political reality. History, 
whether past or present, becomes just a magic show with 
little rhyme or reason, and with no lesson for us which 


might guide our future path. On the gaily-decked official 
stage of India or England phantom figures come and go,, 
posing for a while as great statesmen; Round Tablers flit 
about like pale shadows of those who created them, en- 
gaged in pitiful and interminable talk which interests few 
and affects an even smaller number. Their main concern 
is how to save the vested interests of various classes or 
groups; their main diversion, apart from feasting, is self- 
praise. Others, blissfully ignorant of all that has happened 
in the last half century, still talk the jargon of the Victo- 
rian Age and are surprised and resentful that nobody 
listens to them. Even the nasmyth hammer of war and 
revolution and world change has failed to produce the 
slightest dent on their remarkably hard heads. Yet others 
hide vested interests under cover of communalism or even 
nationalism. And then there is the vague but passionate 
nationalism of many who find present conditions intoler- 
able and hunger for national freedom without clearly 
realising what form that freedom will take. And there 
are also here, as in many other countries, the usual accom- 
paniments of a growing nationalism an idealism, a mys- 
ticism, a feeling of exaltation, a belief in the mission of 
one's country, and something of the nature of religious 
revivalism. Essentially all these are middle class pheno- 

Our politics must either be those of magic or of 
science. The former of course requires no argument or 
logic; the latter is in theory at least entirely based on 
clarity of thought and reasoning and has no room for 
vague idealistic or religious or sentimental processes which 
confuse and befog the mind. Personally I have no faith 
in or use for the ways of magic and religion and I can 


only consider the question on scientific grounds. 

What then are we driving at? Freedom? Swaraj? 
Independence? Dominion Status? Words which may 
mean much or little or nothing at all. Egypt is "indepen- 
dent" and yet, as everybody knows it is at present little 
better than an Indian State, an autocracy imposed upon 
an unwilling people and propped up by the British. Eco- 
nomically, Egypt is a colony of some of the European 
imperialist Powers, notably the British. Ever since the 
World War there has been continuous conflict between 
Egyptian nationalism and the ruling authorities and this 
continues to-day. So in spite of a so-called "independence" 
Egypt is very far from even national freedom. 

Again, whose freedom are we particularly striving 
for, for nationalism covers many sins and includes many 
conflicting elements? There is the feudal India of the 
princes, the India of the big zamindars, of small zamindars, 
of the professional classes, of the agriculturists, of the in- 
dustrialists, of the bankers, of the lower middle class, of 
the workers. There are the interests of foreign capital 
and those of home capital, of foreign services and home 
services. . The nationalist answer is to prefer home interests 
to foreign interests but beyond that it does not go. It tries 
to avoid disturbing the class divisions or the social status 
quo. It imagines that the various interests will somehow 
be accommodated when the country is free. Bejng^gs$en- 
tially a 

injthe interests pf^lut^class. It is obvious that there are 
serious conflicts between various interests in a country, 
and every law, every policy which is good for one interest 
may be harmful for another. What is good for the Indian 
prince may be thoroughly bad for the people of his State, 


what is profitable for the zamindar may ruin many of his 
tenants, what is demanded by foreign capital may crush 
the rising industries of the country. 

Nothing is more absurd than to imagine that all the 
interests in the nation can be fitted in without injury to 
any. At every step some have to be sacrificed for others. 
A currency policy may be good for creditors or debtors, not 
for both at the same time. Inflation, resulting in a reduc- 
tion or even wiping off of debts, will be welcomed by all 
debtors and by industry as a rule, but cursed by bankers 
and those who have fixed incomes. Early in the nineteenth 
century England deliberately sacrificed her agriculture for 
her rising industry. A few years ago, in 1925, by insist- 
ing on keeping the value of the pound sterling at par she 
sacrificed, to some extent, her industry to her banking and 
financial system, and faced industrial troubles and a huge 
general strike. 

Any number of such instances can be given; they 
deal with the rival claims of different groups of the possess- 
ing classes. A more vital conflict of interests arises between 
these possessing classes as a whole and the others; between 
the Haves and Have-Nots. All this is obvious enough, 
but every effort is made to confuse the real issue by the 
holders of power, whether political or economic. The 
British Government is continually declaring before high 
heaven that they are trustees for our masses and India and 
England have common interests and can march hand in 
hand to a common destiny. Few people are taken in by 
this because nationalism makes us realise the inherent con- 
flict between the two national interests. But nationalism 
does not make us realise the equally inherent and funda- 
mental conflict between economic interests within the 


nation. There is an attempt to cover this up and avoid 
it on the ground that the national issue must be settled 
first. Appeals are issued for unity between different classes 
and groups to face the common national foe, and those 
who point out the inherent conflict between landlord and 
tenant, or capitalist and wage labourer are criticised. 

We may take it that the average person does not like 
conflict and continuous tension; he prefers peace and quiet, 
and is even prepared to sacrifice much for it. But the 
ostrich-like policy of refusing to see a conflict and a dis- 
order which not only exist but are eating into society's 
vitals, to blind oneself to reality, will not end the conflict 
and the disorder or suddenly change reality into unreality; 
for a politician or a man of action such a policy can only 
end in disaster. It is therefore essential that we keep this 
in mind and fashion our idea of freedom accordingly. We 
cannot escape having to answer the question, now or later, 
for the freedom of which class or classes in India are we 
especially striving for? Do we place the masses, the peas- 
antry and workers, first, or some other small class at the 
head of our list? Let us give the benefits of freedom to as 
many groups and classes as possible, but essentially who 
do we stand for, and when a conflict arises whose side must 
we take? To say that we shall not answer that question 
now is itself an answer and taking of sides, for it means 
that we stand by the existing order, the status quo. 

The form of government is after all a means to an 
end; even freedom itself is a means, the end being human 
well-being, human growth, the ending of poverty and 
disease and suffering and the opportunity for every one to 
live the "good life", physically and mentally. What the 
"good life" is, is a matter we cannot go into here, but 


most people will agree that freedom is essential 
to it national freedom so far as the nation is 
concerned, personal freedom so far as the individual 
is concerned. For every restriction and inhibition 
stops growth and development and produces, apart 
from economic disorders, complexes and perversions in the 
nation and individual. So freedom is necessary. Equally 
necessary is the will and the capacity for co-operation. 
Modern life grows so complex, there is so much inter- 
dependence, that co-operation is the very breath that keeps 
it functioning. 

The long course of history shows us a succession of 
different forms of government and changing economic 
forms of production and organisation. The two fit in 
{and shape and /influence each other. When economic 
change goes ahead too fast and the forms of government 
remain more or less static, a hiatus occurs, which is usually 
bridged over by a sudden change called revolution. The 
tremendous importance of economic events in shaping his- 
tory and forms of government is almost universally 
admitted now. 

We are often told that there is a world of difference 
between the East and the West. The West is said to be 
materialistic, the East spiritual, religious, etc. What exact- 
ly the East signifies is seldom indicated, for the East includes 
the Bedouins of the Arabian deserts, the Hindus of India, 
the nomads of the Siberian Steppes, the pastoral tribes of 
Mongolia, the typically irreligious Confucians of China, 
and the Samurai of Japan. There are tremendous national 
and cultural differences between the different countries of 
Asia as well as of Europe; but there is no such thing as East 
and West except in the minds of those who wish to make 


this an excuse for imperialist domination, or those who 
have inherited such myths and fictions from a confused 
metaphysical past. Differences there are but they are 
chiefly due to different stages of economic growth. 

We see, in north-western Europe, autocracy and 
feudalism giving place to the present capitalist order in- 
volving competition and large-scale production. The old 
small holdings disappear; the feudal checks on the serfs 
and cultivators go, and these agriculturists are also deprived 
of the little land they had. Large numbers of landless 
people are thrown out of employment and they have no 
land to fall back upon. A landless, propertyless prole- 
tariat is thus created. At the same time the checks and 
the controlled prices of the limited markets of feudal times 
disappear, and the open market appears. Ultimately this 
leads to the world market, the characteristic feature of 

Capitalism builds up on the basis of the landless prole- 
tariat, which could be employed as wage labourers in the 
factories, and the open market, where the machine-made 
goods could be sold. It grows rapidly and spreads all over 
the world. In the producing countries it was an active 
and living capitalism; in the colonial and consuming 
countries it was just a passive consumption of the goods 
made by machine industry in the West. North-western 
Europe, and a little later, North America, exploit the re- 
sources of the world; they exploit Asia, Africa, East 
Europe and South America. They add vastly to the wealth 
of the world but this wealth is largly concentrated in a 
few nations and a few hands. 

In this growth of capitalism, dominion over India was 
of vital importance to England. India's gold, in the early 


stages, helped in the further industrialisation of England. 
And then India became a great producer of raw material 
to feed the factories of England and a huge market to 
consume the goods made in these factories. England, in 
her passionate desire to accumulate wealth, sacrificed her 
agriculture to her industry. England became almost a 
kind of vast city and India the rural area attached to her. 

The concentration of wealth in fewer hands went on. 
But the exploitation of India and other countries brought 
so much wealth to England that some of it trickled down 
to the working class and their standards of living rose. 
Working class agitations were controlled and soothed by 
concessions from the capitalist owners, which they could 
well afford from the profits of imperialist exploitation. 
Wages rose; hours of work went down; there were insur- 
ance and other welfare schemes for the workers. A ge- 
neral prosperity in England took the edge off working 
class discontent. 

In India, passive industrialisation meant an ever grow- 
ing burden on land. She became just a consumer of 
foreign machine made goods. Her own cottage industries 
were partly destroyed forcibly, and partly by economic 
forces, and nothing took their place. All the ingredients 
and conditions for industrialisation were present, but Eng- 
land did not encourage this, and indeed tried to prevent 
it by taxing machinery. And so the burden on the land 
grew and with it unemployment and poverty, and there 
was a progressive ruralisation of India. 

But the processes of history and economics cannot be 
stopped for long. Although general poverty was increas- 
ing, small groups accumulated some capital and wanted 
fields for investment. And so machine industry grew in 


India, partly with Indian capital, very much more so with 
foreign capital. Indian capital was largely dependent on 
foreign capital and, in particular, could be controlled by 
the foreign banking system. It is well known that the 
World War gave a great push to Indian industry and after- 
wards, for reasons of imperial policy, England changed her 
policy towards Indian industry and began to encourage it, 
but mostly with foreign capital. The growth of so-called 
swadeshi industries in India thus represented to a very 
great extent the increasing hold of British capital on India. 

The growth of industries and nationalist movements 
in all the countries of the East checked western exploita- 
tion and the profits of western capitalism began to go down. 
War debts and other consequences of the war were a tre- 
mendous burden for all the countries concerned. There 
was not so much money or profits of industry to be distri- 
buted to the working class in the west, and the discontent 
and pressure of the workers grew. There was also the 
living incentive and inspiration of the Russian Revolution 
for the workers. 

Meanwhile two other processes ^ere working silently 
but with great rapidity. One was the concentration of 
wealth and industrial power in fewer hands by the forma- 
tion of huge trusts, cartels, and combines. The other was 
a continuous improvement in technique in the methods 
of production, leading to greater mechanisation, far greater 
production, and more unemployment as workers were re- 
placed by machinery. And this led to a curious result. 
Just when industry was producing goods on the biggest 
mass scale in history, there were few people to buy them 
as the great majority were too poor to be able to afford 
them. The armies of the unemployed were not earning 


anything, so how could they spend; and even the majority 
of those earning had little to spare. A new truth suddenly 
dawned on the perplexed minds of the great captains of 
industry (this dawning process has not yet taken place 
among the leaders of industry in India), and the truth 
was this: th^JOPULss production necessitates mass cpnsunig- 
tion^ But if the masses have no money how are they to 
buy or consume? And what of production then? So 
production is stopped or restricted and the wheels of in- 
dustry slow down till they barely move. Unemployment 
grows all the more and this again makes consumption 

This is the crisis of capitalism which has had the world 
by the throat for over four years. Essentially it is due 
to the ill distribution of the world's wealth; to its con- 
centration in a few hands. And the disease seems to be 
of the essence of capitalism and grows with it till it eats 
and destroys the very system which created it. There is 
no lack of money in the world, no lack of food stuffs, or 
the many other things that man requires. The world is 
richer to-day than it has ever been and holds promise of 
untold advance in the near future. And yet the system 
breaks down and while millions starve and endure privation, 
huge quantities of food stuffs and other articles are des- 
troyed, insect pests are let loose on the fields to destroy 
crops, harvests are not gathered, and nations meet together 
to confer how to restrict future crops of wheat and cotton 
and tea and coffee and so many other articles. From the 
beginning of history man has fought with nature to get 
the barest necessities of life, and now that nature's wealth 
is poured out before him, enough to remove poverty for 
ever from the world, his only way of dealing with it is 


to burn and destroy it, and become poorer and more desti- 
tute in the process. 

History has never offered a more amazing paradox. 
It seems clear enough that the capitalist system of industry, 
whatever its services in the past may have been, is no longer 
suited to the present methods of production. Technical 
advance has gone far ahead of the existing social structure 
and, as in the past, this hiatus causes most of our present- 
day disorders. Till that lag is made up and a new system 
in keeping with the new technique is adopted, the disorders 
are likely to continue. " The change over to the new system 
is of course opposed by those who have vested interests in 
the old system and though this old system is dying before 
their eyes, they prefer to hold on to their little rather than 
share a lot with others. 

It is not, fundamentally, a moral issue, as some people 
imagine, although there is a moral side to it. It is not a 
question of blaming capitalism or cursing capitalists and 
the like. Capitalism has been of the greatest service to 
the world and individual capitalists are but tiny wheels 
in the big machine. The question liow is whether the 
capitalist system has not outlived its day and must now 
give place to a better and a saner ordering of human affairs, 
which is more in keeping with the progress of science and 
human knowledge. 

In India, during this period, the tremendous burden 
on land continued and even increased, despite the growth 
of industry in certain areas. Economic discontent in- 
creased. The middle classes grew up, and finding no 
sufficient scope for self-development, demanded political 
changes and took to agitation. More or less similar causes 
worked all over the colonial and dependent East. Especially 


after the war, national movements grew rapidly in Egypt 
and most of the countries of Asia. These movements were 
essentially due to the distress of the masses and the lower 
middle classes. There was a strange similarity even in the 
methods employed by these movements non-co-opera- 
tion, boycotts of legislatures, boycotts of goods, hartals, 
strikes, ets. Occasionally there were violent outbreaks, 
as in Egypt and Syria, but stress was laid far more on 
peaceful methods. In India, of course, non-violence was 
made a basic principle by the Congress at the suggestion 
of Gandhiji. All these national struggles for freedom have 
continued till now and they are bound to continue till a 
solution of the basic problem is found. Fundamentally, 
this solution is not merely a question of satisfying the 
natural desire for self-rule but one of filling hungry 

The great revolutionary nationalist urge in Asia of 
the after-war years gradually exhausted itself for the time 
being and conditions stabilised themselves. In India this 
took the form of the Swarajist entry into the Assembly 
and the Councils. In Europe also the middle nineteen- 
twenties was a period of settling down and adaptation to 
the new conditions created by the World War. The re- 
volution that had hovered all over Europe in 1919 and 
1920 failed to come off and receded into the back ground. 
American gold poured into Europe and revived to some 
extent the war-weary and disillusioned peoples of that con- 
tinent and created a false appearance of prosperity. But 
this prosperity had no real basis and the crash came in 1929 
when the United States of America stopped lending money 
to Europe and South America. Many factors, and espe- 
cially the inherent conflicts of a declining capitalism, con- 


tributed to this crash, and the house of cards of after-war 
capitalist prosperity began to tumble down. That process 
of tumbling down has been going on at a tremendous pace 
for four years and there is no end to it yet. It is called 
the slump, trade depression, the crisis, etc., but it is really 
the evening of the capitalist system and the world is being 
compelled by circumstances to recognise this. Interna- 
tional trade is reaching vanishing point, international co- 
operation has failed, the world-market which was the 
essential basis of capitalism, is disappearing, and each nation 
is trying frantically to shift for itself at the cost of others. 
Whatever the future may bring, one thing is certain: that 
the old order has gone and all the king's horses and all the 
king's men will not set it up again. 

As the old capitalist order has tottered, the challenge 
to it by the growing forces of labour has grown more 
intense. This challenge, when it has become dangerous, 
has induced the possessing classes to sink their petty differ- 
ences and band themselves together to fight the common 
foe. This has led to fascism and, ip its milder forms, to 
the formation of so-called national governments. Essen- 
tially, these are the last ditch efforts of the possessing classes, 
or the "kept classes" as they have been called by an 
American economist, to hold on to what they have. The 
struggle becomes more intense and the forms of nineteenth 
century democracy are discarded. But fascism or national 
governments offer no solution of the fundamental econo- 
mic inconsistencies of the present-day capitalist system and 
so long as they do not remove the inequalities of wealth 
and solve the problem of distribution, they are doomed 
to fail. Of the major capitalist countries the United States 
of America is the only place where some attempt is being 


made today towards lessening to a slight extent inequalities 
in wealth by State action. Carried to a logical conclusion, 
President Roosevelt's programme will lead to a form of 
State Socialism; it is far more likely that the effort will 
fail and result in fascism. England, as is her habit, is, 
grimly muddling through and waiting for something to, 
happen. Meanwhile she has derived considerable help f rom, 
India's gold and resources. But all this is temporary relief 
only and the nations slide downhill and approach the brink. 

Thus, if we survey the world today, we find that 
capitalism, having solved the problem of production, help- 
lessly faces the allied problem of distribution and is unable 
to solve it. It was not in the nature of the capitalist sys- 
tem to deal satisfactorily with distribution, and production 
alone makes the world top-heavy and unbalanced. To 
find a solution for distributing wealth and purchasing 
power evenly is to put an end to the basic inequalities of 
the capitalist system and to replace capitalism itself by a 
more scientific system. 

Capitalism has led to imperialism and to the conflicts 
of imperialist powers in search for colonial areas for exploi- 
tation, for areas of raw produce and for markets for manu- 
factured goods. It has led to ever-increasing conflicts 
with the rising nationalism of colonial countries, and to 
social conflicts with powerful movements of the exploited 
working class. It has resulted in recurrent crises, political 
and economic, leading to economic and tariff wars as well 
as political wars on an enormous scale. Every subsequent 
crisis is on a bigger scale than the previous one, and now 
we live in a perpetual state of crisis and slump and the 
shadow of war darkens the horizon. 

And yet it is well to remember that the world to-day 


has a surfeit of food and the other good things of life. 
Terrible want exists because the present system does not 
know how to distribute them. Repeated international 
conferences have failed to find a way out because they 
represented the interests of vested interests and dared not 
touch the system itself. They grope blindly in the dark 
in their stuffy rooms while the foundations of the house 
they built are being sapped by the advance of science and 
economic events. Everywhere thinkers have recognised 
the utter inadequacy of the existing system, though they 
have differed as to the remedies. Communists and socialists 
point with confidence to the way of socialism and they are 
an ever growing power for they have science and logic on 
their side. In America a great stir was caused recently by 
the Technocrats, a group of engineers who want to do 
away with money itself and to substitute for it a unit of 
energy, an erg. In England the social credit theories of 
Major Douglas, according to which the whole production 
of the nation will be evenly distributed to the whole 
population a kind of "dividends for all", find increas- 
ing acceptance. Barter takes the place of trade both in 
the domestic and the international market. The growth 
of these revolutionary theories even among the well-to-do 
classes, and especially the intellectuals, is in itself an indica- 
tion of the tremendous change in mentality that is taking 
place in the world. How many of us can conceive a 
world without money and with the invisible erg as its 
measure of value? And yet this is soberly and earnestly 
advocated not by wild agitators but by well-known eco- 
nomists and engineers. 

This is the world background. 

The Asiatic background is intimately related to this 


and yet it has its peculiar features. Asia is the main field 
of conflict between nationalism and imperialism. Asia is 
still undeveloped as compared to Europe and North 
America. It has a vast population which can consume 
goods if they had the necessary purchasing power to do 
so. To the hard-pressed imperialist Powers seeking franti- 
cally for areas of economic expansion, Asia still offers a 
field, though nationalism offers many obstructions. Hence 
the talk of a "push to Asia" to find an outlet for the 
surplus goods of the west and thus stabilise western capita- 
lism for another period. Capitalism is a young and grow- 
ing force in the East; it has not, as in India, wholly over- 
thrown feudalism yet. But even before capitalism had 
established itself other forces, inimical to it, have risen to 
challenge it. And it is obvious that if capitalism collapses 
in Europe and America it cannot survive in Asia. 

Nationalism is still the strongest forces in Asia (we 
can ignore for our present purpose the Soviet territories 
of Asia) . This is natural as a country under alien domin- 
ation must inevitably think first in terms of nationalism. 
But the powerful economic forces working for change in 
the world today have influenced this nationalism to an 
ever-increasing extent and everywhere it is appearing in 
socialistic garb. Gradually the nationalist struggle for 
political freedom is becoming a social struggle also for 
economic freedom. Independence and the socialist State 
become the objectives, with varying degrees of stress being 
laid on the two aspects of the problem. As political free- 
dom is delayed, the other aspect assumes greater importance, 
and it now seems probable, especially because of world 
conditions, that political and social emancipation will come 
together to some at least of the countries of Asia. 



That is the Asiatic background. 

In India, as in other Asiatic colonial countries, we 
find a struggle to-day between the old nationalist ideology 
and the new economic ideology. Most of us have grown 
up under the nationalist tradition and it is hard to give up 
the mental habits of a lifetime. And yet we realise that 
this outlook is inadequate; it does not fit in with existing 
conditions in our country or in the world; there is a hiatus, 
a lag. We try to bridge this hiatus but the process of 
crossing over to a new ideology is always a painful one. 
Many of us are confused and perplexed to-day because of 
this. But the crossing has to be made, unless we are to 
remain in a stagnant backwater, overwhelmed from time 
to time by the wash of the boats that move down the 
river of progress. We^must realise that tJ[i nineteenth 
century cannot solve "the problems of the twentieth, much 
less can the seventh century or earlier ages do so. 

Having glanced at the general background of Asia and 
the world we can have a clearer view of our own national 
problem. India's freedom affects eagh one of us intimately 
and we are apt to look upon it as a thing apart and uncon- 
nected with world events. But the Indian problem is a 
part of the Asiatic problem and is tied up with the problems 
of the world. We cannot, even if we will it, separate it 
from the rest. What happens in India will affect the 
world and world events will change India's future. Indeed 
it may be said that the three great world problems to-day 
are: the fate of capitalism, which means the fate of Europe 
and America, the future of India, and the future of China, 
and all these are inter-related. 

India's struggle to-day is part of the great struggle 
which is going on all over the world for the emancipation 


of the oppressed. Essentially, this is an economic struggle, 
with hunger and want as its driving forces, although it puts 
on nationalist and other dresses. 

Indian freedom is necessary because the burden on the 
Indian masses as well as the middle classes is too heavy to be 
borne and must be lightened or done away with. The 
measure of freedom is the extent to which this burden is 
removed. This burden is due to the vested interests of 
a foreign government as well as those of certain groups and 
classes in India and abroad. The achievement of freedom 
thus becomes a question, as Gandhiji said recently, of divest- 
ing vested interests. If an indigenous government took 
the place of the foreign government and kept all the vested 
interests intact, this would not even be the shadow of 

We have got into an extraordinary habit of thinking 
of freedom in terms of paper constitutions. Nothing 
could be more absurd than this lawyer's mentality which 
ignores life and the vital economic issues and can only pro- 
ceed on the basis of the status quo and precedents. Too 
much reliance on past practice has somehow succeeded in 
twisting the lawyer's head backwards and he seems to be 
incapable of looking ahead. Even the halt and the lame go 
slowly forward; not so the lawyer who is convinced, like 
the fanatic in religion, that truth can only lie in the past. 

The Round Table scheme is almost as dead as Queen 
Anne and hardly deserves notice. It was not meant to give 
an iota of freedom to the Indian people; it sought to win 
over certain Indian vested interests to the British side and 
in this it succeeded. It answered, to the satisfaction of its 
votaries, the question I had formulated at the beginning of 
this essay: whose freedom are we striving for? It gave 


greater protection and assurance and freedom to the British 
vested interests in India. It was Home Rule for the Vice- 
roy as Mr. Vithalbhai Patel said. It confirmed the interests 
of British capital and British services and, in some cases, 
gave them even more than they have now. It tried to 
perpetuate the alien military occupation of India. Further, 
it gave greater freedom and importance to the vested in- 
terests of the princes and the semi-feudal magnates. In 
brief, the whole scheme was meant for the protection 
and perpetuation of the numerous vested interest that 
exploit the Indian masses. Having done this useful and, 
to themselves, profitable piece of work, the originators of 
the scheme told us that autonomy was a costly affair and 
would mean the expenditure of many extra millions for 
each province! Thus not only were all the old burdens 
on the masses to be continued but many new ones were to 
be added. This was the ingenious solution discovered by 
the wise and learned men who foregathered at the Round 
Table Conference. Intent on protecting their class privi- 
leges they happened to forget an odd three hundred and 
fifty million people in India, 

Even a child in politics can point out the folly of 
this procedure. The whole basis and urge of the national 
movement came from a desire for economic betterment, 
to throw off the burdens that crushed the masses and to 
end the exploitation of the Indian people. If these bur- 
dens continue and are actually added to, it does not require 
a powerful mind to realise that the fight must not only 
continue but grow more intense. Leaders and individuals 
may come and go; they may get tired and slacken off; 
they may compromise or betray; but the exploited and 
suffering masses must carry on the struggle for their drill- 


sergeant is hunger. Swaraj or freedom from exploitation 
for them is not a fine paper constitution or a problem of 
the hereafter. It is question of the here and now, of 
immediate relief. Roast lamb and mint sauce may be a 
tasty dish for those who eat it but the poor lamb is not 
likely to appreciate the force of the best of arguments 
which point out the beauty of sacrifice for the good of the 
elect and the joys of close communion, even though dead, 
with mint sauce. 

India's immediate goal can therefore only be consi- 
dered in terms of the ending of the exploitation of her 
people. Politically, it must mean independence and the 
severance of the British connection, which means impe- 
rialist dominion; economically and socially it must mean 
the ending of all special class privileges and vested interests. 
The whole world is struggling to this end; India can do 
no less, and in this way the Indian struggle for freedom 
lines up with the world struggle. Is our aim human wel- 
fare or the preservation of class privileges and the vested 
interests of pampered groups? The question must be 
answered clearly and unequivocally by each one of us. 
There is no room for quibbling when the fate of nations 
and millions of human beings is at stake. The day for 
palace intrigues and parlour politics and pacts and com- 
promises passes when the masses enter politics. Their 
manners are not those of the drawing room; we never 
took the trouble to teach them any manners. Their 
school is the school of events and suffering is their teacher. 
They learn their politics from great movements which 
bring out the true nature of individuals and classes, and 
the civil disobedience movement has taught the Indian 
masses many a lesson which they will never forget. 


Independence is a ( much abused word and it hardly 
connotes what we are driving at. And yet there is no 
other suitable word and, for want of a better, we must 
use it. National isolation is neither a desirable nor a possi- 
ble ideal in a world which is daily becoming more of a 
unit. International and intra-national activities domin- 
ate the world and nations are growing more and more 
inter-dependent. Our ideal and objective cannot go 
against this historical tendency and we must be prepared 
to discard a narrow nationalism in favour of world co- 
operation and real internationalism. Independence therefore 
cannot mean for us isolation but freedom from all imperial- 
ist control, and because Britain to-day represents imperial- 
ism, our freedom can only come after the British con- 
nection is severed. W^tav^jip^g^ 
people, but between :> British ^^frj^lism ^n^ Indian hee^ 
dCoSt^' there ^ls*np ip^et;i|ij^._grpu^id and. there can be Qg 
peace. If imperialism goes from Britain we shall gladly 
co-operate with her in the wider international field; not 

British statesmen of the Liberal and Labour variety 
often point out to us the ills of a narrow nationalism and 
dwell on the virtues of what used to be known as the 
British Empire and is now euphemistically called the 
British Commonwealth of Nations. Under cover of fine 
and radical words and phrases they seek to hide the ugly 
and brutal face of imperialism and try to keep us in its 
embrace of death. Some Indian public men, who ought 
to know better, also praise the virtues of internationalism, 
meaning thereby the British Empire, and tell us in sorrow 
how narrow-minded we are in demanding independence, 
in place of that wonderful thing (which nobody offers 


us) Dominion Status. The British, it is well known, 
have a remarkable capacity for combining their moral 
instincts with their self-interest. That is perhaps not un- 
natural, but it is remarkable how some of our own coun- 
trymen are taken in by this unctuous and hypocritical 
attitude. Even the light of day is wasted on those who 
keep their eyes shut. It is worth noting however that the 
foreign policy of England has been the greatest stumbling 
block to international co-operation through the League 
of Nations or otherwise. All the European and American 
world knows this but most of us, who look at foreign 
politics through English spectacles, have not grasped 
this fact yet. Disarmament, air-bombing, the attitude to 
the Manchurian question, are some of the recent witnesses 
to England's attitude. Even the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 
Paris, which was to have outlawed war, was only accepted 
by England subject to certain qualifications and reserva- 
tions regarding her empire, which effectively nullified the 
Pact. The British Empire and real internationalism are as 
the poles apart and it is not through that empire that we 
can march to internationalism. 

The real question before us, and before the whole 
world, is one of fundamental change of regime, politically, 
economically, socially. Only thus can we put India on 
the road to progress and stop the progressive deterioration 
of our country. In a revolutionary period, such as exists 
in the world to-day, it is foolish waste of energy to think 
and act in terms of carrying on the existing regime and 
trying to reform it and improve it. To do so is to waste 
the opportunity which history offers once in a long while. 
"The whole world is in revolution" says Mussolini. 
"Events themselves are a tremendous force pushing us on 


like some implacable will." Individuals, however eminent, 
play but a minor role when the world is on the move. 
They may divert the main current here and there to some 
slight extent; they may not and cannot stop the rushing 
torrent. And therefore the only peace that can endure is 
with circumstances, not merely with men. 

Whither India? Surely to the great human goal of 
social and economic equality, to the ending of all exploita- 
tion of nation by nation and class by class, to national 
freedom within the frame-work of an international co- 
operative socialist world federation. This is not such an 
empty idealist dream as some people imagine. It is within 
the range of the practical politics of to-day and the near 
future. We may not have it within our grasp but those 
with vision can see it emerging on the horizon. And even 
if there be delay in the realisation of our goal, what does it 
matter if our steps march in the right direction and our 
eyes look steadily in front. For in the pursuit itself of a 
mighty purpose there is joy and happiness and a measure 
of achievement. As Bernard Shaw has said: "This is the 
true joy in life, the being used for* a purpose recognised 
by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn 
out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being 
a force of nature, instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of 
ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will 
not devote itself to making you happy." 


My articles entitled "Whither India?" have had a 
mixed welcome. But they have amply justified the labour 
spent on them for they have directed the public mind to 
certain basic problems which are seldom considered in 
India, and have perhaps made some people think on novel 
lines. There have been two types of criticisms: the left 
criticism which accepted the main line of thought but 
said that it did not go far enough, and the right criticism 
which attacked the very premises of my argument and 
rejected with anger my conclusions. On both sides the 
personal element was brought in and my seeming contra- 
dictions and weaknesses were pointed out. 

I had attempted to deal with the problem as imper- 
sonally and objectively as it was possible for me and I had 
hoped that it would be so considered. Personalities count 
in politics but they should not intrude themselves when 
world problems and world forces are analysed and a mean- 
ing is sought to be drawn from them. It is therefore 
desirable that my many failings and deficiencies might be 
forgotten for a while for they do not affect these pro- 
blems. Personally I am not conscious of any glaring 
inconsistencies in my ideas or activities during the last 
thirteen years or so but no doubt I am a partial observer. 
It is perfectly true that I have grown mentally during this 
period and many a vague idea has taken shape and many a 
doubt has been removed. It is also true that as an active 


politician, having to face day to day problems, I have 
sometimes had to make compromises with life and the 
conditions that I found existing at a particular moment. 
But even so I am not aware of any betrayal of the ideal 
that drew me on or the principles I held. 

I have not seen all the criticisms of my articles and 
even those that I have seen are too many to be dealt with 
here. I shall therefore confine my reply to two lengthy 
and anonymous criticisms one by "G" which appeared 
in a number of newspapers in Northern India and the 
other entitled "Into the Pit. ..." which was published 
by The Pioneer. Both these deal with the problem from 
the extreme "right" point of view. I have already replied 
separately to the "left" criticism. 

Reading these two anonymous articles I marvelled at 
the extreme ignorance of the writers of the accepted com- 
monplaces of history and economics and modern thought, 
and the amazing confusion that existed in their heads. 
I am not vain enough to imagine that I shall succeed in 
illumining the dark corners of their grains or make them 
understand the most obvious and elementary facts. But 
I should like to inform them that there was nothing 
novel in my survey of history and present day conditions, 
although to them it might have appeared strange enough; 
it was a repetition of what practically every thinker and 
intelligent writer of to-day says. The conclusions drawn 
from this survey might differ, but the facts themselves 
are beyond dispute for all except those who have a horror 
of facts or an incapacity or unwillingness to see straight. 
The Statesman is no friend of communism or socialism. 
It has given me fair warning that if I carry on in the way 
I am doing I shall have to be suppressed. And yet The 


Statesman said, after reading the first two of my articles: 
"With the Pandit's analysis of the problem we are largely 
in agreement, indeed substantially the same picture has 
often been presented in these columns." When, however, 
The Statesman saw my third article, in which an attempt 
was made to apply the conclusions it had largely accepted 
to India, it drew away in fear and anger. 

I have been told that the "programme" I had laid 
down in my articles was wanting in clarity and details. 
As a matter of fact I had laid down no programme at 
all, much less a detailed programme, although a certain 
programme would follow inevitably if my premises and 
argument were correct. I had merely endeavoured to 
trace the course of historical development of capitalism 
and to point out how economic forces were dominating 
and changing the world. Both the criticisms I am deal- 
ing with have ignored this and have branched off into 
wholly irrelevant questions. What has the Gandhi-Irwin 
pact to do with the subject I was considering? Soviet 
Russia, like King Charles' head, also seems to have become 
an obsession with the two anonymous critics and this 
nightmare has, I am afraid, seriously diminished their capa- 
city for clear thought. 

I have not defined "Capitalist" or "Capitalism," I am 
told, and, mortal sin, I have assumed the existence of 
British imperialism without proving it! I plead guilty to 
the charge and await sentence. Science is a revolutionary 
product (I agree) and must be avoided, and is not today's 
magic to-morrow's science? In any event my science is 
nescience leading straight "to a Soviet hell." "Into the 

Pit "of this close reasoning let us for the moment 

leave the author of this rigmarole. 


But "G" runs him close. In a "scientific" world we 
are told "the wife may be regarded as sheer luxury/* 
History has been ransacked by him to show that "no 
example could be produced to prove that the lot of the 
masses has ever been improved by violent means." It 
would be interesting to find out where "G" derived his 
knowledge of history. Then we are given an insight into 
European politics by being told that Germany and Italy 
have adopted Bolshevik methods. We await enlighten- 
ment as to what these methods are. But to judge of the 
efficacy of these methods we must wait for another hun- 
dred years! It is some comfort to know that we are in a 
position to judge of the effects of the French Revolution 

It is a little difficult to say much about this ignorant 
jumble of crude ideas and prejudices. But we can draw 
this conclusion from it that when interests are at stake the 
mind and the intellect are forced into the background and 
passions hold the field. "There is nothing so passionate", 
says Yeats, the Irish poet, "as a vestejj interest disguised as 
an intellectual conviction." 

When the word "capitalism" is used intelligently it 
can mean only one thing: the economic system that has 
developed since the Industrial Revolution which began in 
England a century and half ago. It means industrial 
capitalism. To give a recent definition (by G. D. H. 
Cole) : capitalism means the developed system of produc- 
tion for profit based on private ownership of the means 
of production. It makes fundamentally for scarcity and 
not abundance, though the capitalist is often led to seek 
ways of cheapening individual products. For it the 
making of profits is the end of production, and it neces- 


sarily treats wages as a cost to be kept down as low as 
possible, and therefore tends to restrict mass purchasing 

It is this system that we have to consider and not the 
merits of individual capitalists, some of whom according 
to "G", are even prepared to make a big sacrifice, but with 
a proviso attached. I endeavoured very briefly to trace 
in my previous articles the growth and decline of this 
system and to point out that it was breaking up to-day. 
This process of disruption, owing to economic causes, has 
nothing to do with the goodness or otherwise of capitalists 
or our own wishes in the matter. If the diagnosis is cor- 
rect then the disease must have a speedy and a fatal end 
however much some of us might desire a continuation of 
the present system. 

The anonymous gentlemen (or is it a lady?) from 
the Pit appears to think that the French Revolution and 
the Russian Bolshevik Revolution were the same kind of 
phenomena and represent an identical or similar conflict 
between social forces. There could be no greater error. 
The French Revolution was a continuation on a more 
thorough and far-reaching scale of the English Revolution 
which cost Charles I his head and James II his crown, and 
which brought the middle classes to the seats of power. 
These middle class revolutions largely ended the feudal 
period when political power was an inherited privilege. 

In England the process was not as thorough as in 
France and hence relics of feudalism still linger in England 
and there are more class distinctions in England to-day 
than in almost any country of Europe or America. 
Napoleon carried on the work of the French Revolution 
and was instrumental in establishing the capitalist middle 


class regime all over western Europe. The whole of 19th 
century civilisation in Europe was based on the ideology 
of the French Revolution. This ideology in its turn 
derived from the ideas of Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rous- 
seau and the Encyclopaedists that is to say from the period 
before the Industrial Revolution. This ideology, with 
its slogan of political liberty, equality and fraternity, be- 
came completely out of date with the growth of indus- 
trial capitalism. 

Political liberty brought the vote but it was gradually 
discovered that this was of little use when there was so 
much economic inequality. A starving man could do 
little with his vote and could be easily coerced and exploited. 
This gave rise to new theories and ideas based on the econo- 
mic relations of various groups, and socialism saw the light 
of day. A vague and idealistic socialism developed later 
into the scientific socialism of Karl Marx. The Russian 
Revolution was the direct product and justification of the 
Marxist theory the first revolution of March 1917 being 
a middle class turn over, the second oile in November 1917 
a proletarian victory. 

The French Revolution was based on the idea of the 
sacredness of private property. The writer in The Pioneer 
does not seem to approve of the sansculottes. Perhaps it 
will surprise him to learn that they fought for the Decla- 
ration of the Rights of Man which in Article 17 declared: 
"La propriete etant un droit inviolable et sacre, nul ne 
peut etre prive de ses proprietes . . . . " 

It became evident, however, during the 19th century, 
that a theoretical equality before the law or the possession 
of a vote did not bring real equality. Economic inequa- 
lity, the maldistribution of wealth, which capitalism pro* 


gressively increased, made equality impossible of attain- 
ment and exploitation of man by man and group by group 
increased. Thinkers therefore came to the conclusion 
that economic equality should be aimed at and at the root 
of this was the control of the means of production by 
society as a whole and the severe restriction of private 

No one has said, as The Pioneer article seems to 
imagine, that all men are physically or mentally equal, or 
that all nations, are similarly situated. What has been 
said, and what is admitted by the great majority of intelli- 
gent men, is that all human beings should have an equality 
of opportunity. The present capitalist system does not and 
cannot in the nature of things provide this equality of 

The famous 19th century saying about "government 
of the people, by the people and for the people" failed to 
materialise in practice because under the capitalist system 
the government was neither by the people nor for the 
people. It was a government by the possessing classes for 
their own benefit. The people, according to them were 
themselves: all others were in the outer darkness. A real 
government by the people and for the people can only be 
established when the masses hold power, that is under 
socialism when all the people really share in the govern- 
ment and the wealth of the country. 

The Pioneer writer informs us that if the State 
becomes the sole capitalist then the lot of the workers will 
be worst of all because the State will exploit them merci- 
lessly. This is a remarkable argument. What is the State 
under socialism and who benefits by the exploitation? If 
the people as a whole choose to exploit themselves they are 


perfectly welcome to do so, but even so the benefits go to 
them as a whole and not to selected groups or individuals. 

Where will the surplus go, he further asks in an agony 
of apprehension? He cannot get out of the old rut of 
thinking along the lines of the capitalist economics of 
scarcity. There will be no surplus in a properly ordered 
and planned society and whatever is produced will go 
towards raising the standard of living of the people. Cer- 
tainly, a man should be allowed the fruits of his labour. 
It is because these fruits are forcibly taken away from him 
under the capitalist system that we object to that system. 
Only under socialism will he have the full enjoyment of 
these fruits of his toil. 

It is perfectly true that there can be no perfect free- 
dom for an individual or nation when there is co-operation 
or interdependence with others. Every form of social life 
'involves a restriction of individual freedom. But it is the 
merest quibbling to say that there can be no such thing 
as national freedom within the framework of an interna- 
tional socialist federation. When JSL measure of national 
freedom is given up willingly for the purposes of inter- 
national co-operation this is not usually considered as a 
loss of freedom for the individual or the group. Is Wales 
less free because it forms part of Great Britain? 

"G" tells us that the "very idea that the interests of 
the upper and middle classes conflict with those of the 
peasantry and the workers seems to be untenable." And 
yet, strange to say, this untenable idea is held by almost 
every thinker or intelligent person in the West where a 
great deal of thought has been given to this subject. If he 
will study a little history or any modern book on the sub- 
ject it may help him to clear up his ideas. Or it might 


even be helpful to visit a factory and find out what the 
owners and the workers think about each other's interests. 

Both the critics seem to be greatly interested in my 
views on non-violence. Am I for coercion or compulsion? 
tc G" seems to thunder out, and he tells me, quoting 
Gandhiji as his authority, that the method alone is the 
deciding factor. I was not aware that Gandhiji had made 
any such one-sided statement although he has always laid 
stress on the methods to be employed. 

None of these questions arises from my articles for I 
had dealt only with a historical process and the ideal to be 
aimed at. I had not referred to any methods. But it is 
desirable none the less to answer the questions. 

However important the method may be I entirely 
fail to understand how it can take the place of the objec- 
tive. It is essential to have the objective and know the 
direction before a single step can be taken. As for the 
method, I might clear the ground by saying that, so far as 
I am concerned, it does not consist of preaching religion 
or philanthropy. I have no use for either and I have 
often found that they cover the rankest hypocrisy and 
selfishness. I certainly believe in ethics and morality and 
truthfulness and many other virtues but my belief in them 
does not turn them into methods; they can only be attri- 
butes of a method. 

Coercion or conversion? What is the whole principle 
of the State based on? And the present social system? 
Is not coercion and enforced conformity the very basis of 
both? Army, police, laws, prisons, taxes are all methods 
of coercion. The zamindar who realises rent and often 
many illegal cesses relies on coercion, not on conversion of 
the tenant. The factory owner who gives starvation 



wages does not rely on conversion. Hunger and the 
organised forces of the State are the coercive processes 
employed by both. Is a lock-out or an attempt to reduce 
wages a method of conversion? It is well to realise that 
those who belong to the favoured and possessing classes 
retain these positions by methods of coercion alone and it 
does not lie in their mouths to talk of conversion. The 
principal moral argument against the present system and in 
favour of socialism is that the latter reduces the element of 
coercion and will, it is hoped, ultimately do away with it 

How are we to change over to a new system based on 
co-operation? And how are we to divest vested interests? 
We are told by The Pioneer writer, and I think rightly, 
that the capitalist will not "tamely submit to be robbed of 
his wealth, or vested interests tamely submit to be divested/' 
History also shows us that there is no instance of a privi- 
leged class or group or nation giving up its special privi- 
leges or interests willingly. Individuals have done so often 
enough but not a group. Always a measure of coercion has 
been applied, pressure has been brought to bear, or condi- 
tions have been created which make it impossible or unpro- 
fitable for vested interests to carry on. And then the 
enforced conversion takes place. The methods of this 
enforcement may be brutal or civilized. 

I have no doubt that coercion or pressure is necessary 
to bring about political and social change in India. Indeed 
our non-violent mass movements of the past thirteen years 
have been powerful weapons to exercise this pressure. Un- 
doubtedly they convert stray individuals from the opposing 
group and partly weaken the resistance of that group by 
removing the moral justification for domination and repres- 


sion. But essentially they are processes to coerce the oppos- 
ing nation or group. 

It is perfectly true that this method of coercion is the 
most civilized and moral method and it avoids as far as pos- 
sible the unpleasant reactions and consequences of violence. 
I think that it does offer a moral equivalent for violent war- 
fare and, if civilisation does not collapse, it will gradually 
adopt this peaceful method of settling its disputes. But it 
seems to me a fact that cannot be disputed or challenged 
that a non-violent mass struggle coerces and is meant to 
coerce the other party. The boycott of goods is an obvious 

Personally I have accepted the non- violent method be- 
cause not only did it appeal to me in theory but it seemed 
to be peculiarly suited to present conditions in India. That 
belief has grown in me. But I have made it clear on many 
occasions that non-violence is no infallible creed with me 
and although I greatly prefer it to violence, I prefer free- 
dom with violence to subjection with non-violence. That 
choice does not arise for me to-day because I believe that 
for a long time to come our most effective methods must be 
non-violent. I might add that I do not look upon non- 
violent non-co-operation or civil disobedience as a negative 
and passive method, a kind of pious and static pacifism, but 
as an active dynamic and forceful method of enforcing the 
mass will. 

The question of violence or non-violence may arise, 
and indeed is bound to arise, in another form after the con- 
quest of the State power. There may be attempts to upset 
the new form of government by reactionary groups. Will 
"G" advise the new government to use the resources of the 
State to coerce these elements into submission or does he 


think that the religious and philanthropic argument should 
be used to convert them? Then again the new government 
may pass laws which, carrying out the will of the great 
majority of the people, seek to divest privileged groups. 
Will "G" then advise these groups to submit to the majority 
opinion or to resist, and if the latter, how should their re- 
sistance be met? 

There is one other subject on which I should like to 
touch and that is khaddar. I believe in industrialisation 
and the big machine and I should like to see factories spring 
up all over India. I want to increase the wealth of India 
and the standards of living of the Indian people and it seems 
to me that this can only be done by the application of 
science to industry resulting in large-scale industrialisation. 
Quite apart from my own desires, I think that present day 
conditions are bound to result in the progressive industrial- 
isation of the country. And yet I support hand-spinning 
and khaddar under existing conditions in India. 

For me this has to-day an economic, a political and a 
social value. It fits in with the preSent peasant structure, 
brings them some relief and makes them self-reliant. It 
helps to bring us into touch with the peasant masses and to 
organise them to some extent. It is an effective political 
weapon in that it helps in the boycott of foreign cloth, and 
at the same time it acts as some check on the Indian mills, 
preventing them raising their prices too much. During 
the Great War foreign imports of cloth fell greatly and 
there was a cloth famine. Indian millowners made vast pro- 
fits by raising their "prices and exploiting this more or less 
protected market. They will no doubt exploit every such 

But khaddar can now fill the gap during times of crisis 


and prevent this exploitation to a large extent. There can 
be no doubt that khaddar has justified itself in some ways. 
At the same time it is equally true that it is an out-of-date 
form of production and it will not be possible, through it, 
to increase the wealth of the country greatly or raise the 
standard of living of the masses. Therefore, I think that 
the big machine must come and I am sure that khaddar 
will not prevent its coming. It may be that the big 
machine itself gets decentralised to a large extent in the 
course of the next few years. The enormous growth in the 
use of electric power has revolutionised world industry 
during the last thirty years and it will no doubt revolu- 
tionise it still further. 

In conclusion may I assure the writer in The Pioneer 
that I have not the least desire to get England strafed. I 
have too much regard for many of the fine things that 
England has stood for to nurse any such wish and I believe 
that the great majority of the English people are themselves 
exploited by small groups. But I do believe that natural 
laws will speedily put an end to the British Empire and 
imperialism and capitalism and I wish to help in the process. 


It is well to bear in mind that news agencies and news- 
papers are functioning to-day in a peculiar way and live 
in continual fear of government displeasure. They seldom 
publish all the news sent to them and it is very unsafe to 
pass judgment on the incomplete data provided by them. 

Under present circumstances I am wholly opposed to 
a withdrawal or suspension of direct action because this 
inevitably means liquidating our present struggle and turn- 
ing mass attention to some form of compromise with 
British imperialism. I think that under present conditions 
in India and the world this would be a betrayal of the cause. 
Small groups here and there who talk in terms of an 
advanced ideology will have little, if any, effect on the mass 
demoralization which will be produced by our abandoning 
the civil disobedience movement. We would then drift 
away from the current of world change, which grows more 
powerful day by day, and settle down in a stagnant back 
water. The opportunities that may come over way will 
find us lacking and unprepared. 

Even from the point of view of consolidating and pre- 
paring our organizations and position for a mass struggle, 
it seems to me to be folly to expect that a withdrawal of the 
movement will give us this opportunity unless this conso- 
lidation means parlour talk and no action. Surely, the 
Government will not willingly give us a chance of building 
up our strength and will pick out all our active and effective 


workers and try to disable them. This process of indivi- 
dual disablement, added to the loss of morale involved in a 
giving up of the present struggle, must result in utter mass 
demoralization and an inability to do anything effective for 
a considerable time. It is far easier to build up and con- 
solidate our position and develop an ideology in course of 
a struggle than in the demoralized condition that follows 
an ending of it. Events teach the masses more than indivi- 
dual effort, and a struggle, whether national or social, pro- 
duces these mighty teachers. But, of course, there must be 
right direction. 

I am quite sure that the only alternative to a continua- 
tion of our present struggle is some measure of co-operation 
with imperialism. Individuals and groups here and there 
may talk bravely but their talk will end in empty nothing 
so far as mass action is concerned. Personally, I am not 
prepared, and there are many who think like me, for any 
such compromise, whatever happens. It is better for the 
cause, I am convinced, that we should carry on the fight 
and even be crushed to atoms rather than that we should 
compromise with imperialism. But we have no intention 
of being crushed. 

An ideology is presumed to lead to action and action 
on a mass scale. If such action is meant for the whole of 
India, the ideology cannot (except as the ultimate aim) 
ignore present day objective facts and conditions all over 
the country. The question each one of us has to answer is 
this: Are we to prepare for some distant future struggle 
for a problematic freedom in the hereafter, or do we 
consider that objective conditions in the country and the 
world are such that the struggle is here and now, or in the 
near future, and we have to face it. If we adopt the latter 


answer, as I think we must, then we must carry on the 
struggle and try to shape it and try to develop a new 
ideology through it and in the course of it. 

World events of the past decade or more have many 
lessons to teach us. There is the pitiful and miserable 
failure of social democracy in England, Germany and 
other countries. There is also the failure to make good 
or to rouse the masses, inspite of suitable economic condi- 
tions of the communist parties of various countries (ex- 
cluding the Soviet Union). In most countries com- 
munism is represented by three or four different groups 
or parties, each cursing and slandering the other, wholly 
incapable of united action, and often forgetting the com- 
mon foe in their mutual hatreds. It is perfectly clear 
that however correct the ideology of the Communist 
International may have been, their tactics have failed. 

In India we see, during the past thirteen years, a sub- 
survient and demoralised people, incapable of any action 
and much less united action, suddenly develop backbone 
and power of resistance and an amazing capacity for 
united action, and challenge the might of a great and 
entrenched empire. Is this a little thing that we have 
achieved? Or is it not one of the most remarkable exam- 
ples of mass regeneration? And are we not entitled to 
claim that the methods that brought about this great 
change were worthy and desirable methods? Those who 
criticise these methods might well compare the achieve- 
ment of India during these years with that of any other 
colonial and semi-colonial country. They might also 
compare the achievements of others in India trying to 
work differently or with a braver ideology. 

It would be a good thing if some of our critics made a 


grand tour of India from the Khyber pass in the north ta 
the south and east and west and studied the situation for 
themselves. They would find that the Congress is not 
only not defunct but is very much alive and functioning 
in many areas, and is going to function despite anything 
that might happen. They would discover the strange fer- 
ment in the peasantry and the new temper of the army. 
One is a little apt to misjudge India by conditions prevail- 
ing in a city, especially when our newspapers do not even 
publish the news. How many people know of the recent 
extraordinary happenings in the Frontier Province? Or 
of the fact that about eight hundred people have gone to 
prison in Behar alone during the last two months or so? 
Or of the stream of individuals that are offering civil dis- 
obedience in other provinces? Or of the sarkar salaam 
and other barbarities that are taking place in Bengal? I 
could add to the list. The mere fact that the these amaz- 
ing methods of repression are being resorted to still is 
proof enough of the strength of our movement and the 
nervous and fearful state of Government. Why should 
it resort to these extraordinary methods if it felt that 
there was no life left in our movement? 

I have been told that I stand for a federation with 
the princes and feudal lords without in any way question- 
ing their despotism. This is a somewhat remarkable 
interpretation of what I have said. Certainly I think 
[that a federation is likely to be established in the India 
| that is to be, but I cannot conceive of any stable federation, 
certainly not one to which I can agree, to which the feudal 
chiefs are parties. I believe jj*gthe whole Indian State 

Probably reference was made to the Delhi Provisional 


Settlement of 1931. A Federation was certainly agreed 
to there but the nature of it was not defined. In any 
event the Delhi Settlement is no more. The Government 
has put an end to it and we are no longer bound by its 

It might be as well to remember that I am not the 
Congress and the Congress is not Jawaharlal Nehru. It 
has been my great privilege to work in the Congress for 
the best years of my life and 

had a little influence over its decisions. But I am not 

u i -"in i ___ ji. n r- ___ ~-*^~*- to.ew-'VT ^fc',fci,^,.A* 3 ^~*^*o'-f > ii v ^* 

presumptuous enough to imagine that I can carry the 

Congress with me wherever I will. IJ 

the Congress is far the most effective radical, 

uTtlie country and^ it is easier to [ work 

^ mass mentality through it rather than through any 
other mearisr ^So'lbng as T "feet "that I stall gladly and 
most'^riffihgly work with this great organization, which 
has done so much for the country, even though it may 
not go far enough from my point of view. And so long 
as that is the case no question canarise of my thinking 
of another organization. 

People forget sometimes that we are functioning jib- 

.i^Ylf-fc^v^-ffi^A^, ftff^.,--*.^.^. **:-. *-.<.- ' - ^ r ^_- .*" v- -< .f- -jji'.^^^Uffj:^*. ^C-'TWPi 

nonnajllj) They discuss the constitutional issue in terms 
of normality or they criticise the Congress for its seeming 
inactivity, forgetting that the Congress has arrived at a 
certain stage of historical growth. It is not at present 
a constitutional or legal body and many of the safe and 
brave deeds that are performed on public platforms are 
no longer in its line. Constitutionalists naturally dislike 
this; they cannot function in an illegal atmosphere. But 
why should those who think in terms of revolutionary 
change object to this inevitable and desirable development? 


Extracts from a speech delivered at the Benares Hindu 
University an November 12, 19)3 

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, addressing last night 
a crowded meeting of Hindu University students con- 
demned strongly the recent activities of the Hindu Maha- 
sabha. He said he had long been of opinion that the 
Hindu Mahasabha was a small reactionary group pretend- 
ing to speak on behalf of the Hindus of India of whom it 
was very far from being representative. Nonetheless mis- 
apprehensions were created by their high-sounding title 
and resounding phrases and it was time that these mis- 
apprehensions were removed. Nothing in recent months 
pained him quite so much as the activities of the Mahasabha 
group culminating in the resolutions passed at Ajmer. 

Going a few steps further the 

jwhich was presumably an off -shoot of the Hindu Maha- 
sabha, had proclaimed its policy to be one of elimination 
of Muslims and Christians from India and the establishment 
of a Hindu Raj. This statement makes clear what the 
pretensions of the Mahasabha about Indian nationalism 
amount to. Under cover of seeming nationalism, the 
Mahasabha not only hides the rankest and narrowest com- 
munalism but also desires to preserve the vested interests of 
a group of big Hindu landlords and the princes. The 
policy of the Mahasabha as declared by its responsible lea- 
ders is one of cooperation with the foreign Government so 


that their favouring (fawning ?) to it and abasing them- 
selves before it might result in a few crumbs coming in 
their way. This is betrayal of the freedom struggle, denial 
of every vestige of nationalism and suppression of every 
manly instinct in the Hindus. 

form of socialism and social change. Anything more cle- 

,,, ,i,>U.>*w t+*#"-,S.)Ut * iy** WH-jff-t -v ft.*-, ,^ S^j- ~t -'-*,- -iV,---^ ,,,-> J- ~* ."' l *T" >'' V, ^ .- ,. 

grading, reactionary, anti-national, anti-progressive and 

---- ~^^-jj*^.'^AVM'v*rt vV>1 ..,*>~v ' ',y -. -<f* >/ t-s* -- ---- *'UTfc>. .' w; -^ -u^, ..***.-. 

harmful than the present policy of the Hindu Manasabna 
S ^SlSSS^^im^me. The leaders of the l^ahasablia 
iust realTze tKat tlie inevitable consequence of this policy 
f their lining up with the enemies of Indian freedom and 
inost reactionary elements in the country is for the rest of 
India, Hindu and non-Hindu, to face them squarely and 
oppose them and treat them as enemies of freedom and all 
we are striving for. It is not a mere matter of condemna- 
tion and disassociation, though of course there must be both 
these, but one of active and persistent opposition to the 
most opportunist and stupid of policies. 


My recent remarks on Hindu communalists and the 
Hindu Mahasabha have evidently touched a sensitive spot of 
many people and have produced strong reactions. For 
many days every morning the newspapers brought me a 
tonic in the shape of criticisms and condemnations and I 
must express my gratitude for these to all who indulged 
in them. It is not given to everybody to see himself as 
others see him, and since this privilege has been accorded 
to me and my numerous failings in education, up-bring- 
ing, heredity, culture, as well as those for which I am 
personally responsible, pointed out to me gently, I must 
needs feel grateful. I shall try to profit by the chiding 
I have received but I am afraid I have outgrown tie juje 

M0MU t~w.o4S<A>. *HgfMfi*^~*&M' f :-* ia^3^<$Re^&>Wr 

when the background of one's thought and action can be 
easily changed. 

I have not hastened to reply to the criticisms because 
I thought it as well for excitement to cool so that we 
might consider the question dispassionately and without 
reference to personalities. It is a vital question for all 
of us Indians, and especially for those who from birth or 
choice are in the Hindu fold. 

But I must begin with an expression of regret and 
apology. It is clear that some of us were the victims of 
a hoax in regard to the alleged resolution of the Arya 
Kumar Sabha which was sent to us and in which it was 
stated that there could be no peace in India so long as 


there were any Muslims or Christians in the country. It 
has been demonstrated that no such resolution was passed 
by the Arya Kumar Sabha at Ajmer or elsewhere; indeed 
no resolution of a political nature was passed by that body 
at all. I am exceedingly sorry for having permitted my- 
self to fall into a trap of some one's devising and I desire 
to express my deep regret to the Arya Kumar Sabha. 

I must also express my regret both to the Arya Kumar 
Sabha and the Hindu Mahasabha for having presumed that 
they were associated with each other. 

In regard to my main contention, however, I confess 
that I arn^ unrepentant and I hold still that the activities 
of HuuTu communal organizations, including tKe MaKa- 
sablia,"TiavVT^en fcommuxiaT, anti-national and reactionary. 
OT course tftis cannot apply to * alt tlie memBers^oI 3ieSe 
organizations; it can only apply to the majority group in 
(them or the group that controls them. Organizations also 
change their policies from time to time and what may be 
true today may not have been wholly true yesterday. So 
far as I have been able to gather, Hindu communal organi- 
zations, especially in the PunjaB^a"53 iu $iud Haye/pgen 
Erogressively Becoming more narrowly communal and anti- 

--?"- . 'jf <r . H - - .--!.-**- -'* -*' '''-"> *-"* '-* '**'*-" - . 

national and politically reactionary. 

t am tolcl that this is a consequence of Muslim com- 
munalism and reactionary policy and I have been chided 
for not blaming Muslim communalists. I have already 
pointed out that it would have been entirely out of place 
for me, speaking to a Hindu audience, to draw attention 
to Muslim communalists and reactionaries. It would have 
been preaching to the converted as the average Hindu is 
well aware of them. It is far more difficult to see one's 
own faults than to see the failings of others. I also hold 


phat it serves little purpose, in the prevailing atmosphere 
bf mutual suspicion, to preach to the other community, 
Although of course, whenever necessity arises, facts must be 
faced and the truth stated. 

I do not think that the Muslim communal organiza- 
tions, chief among whom are the Muslim All Parties Con- 
ference and the Muslim League, represent any large group 
of Muslims in India except in the sense that they exploit 
'the prevailing communal sentiment. But the Tact remains 

^^^*t,,>'^r^%'j.v^,^ 1lr ..^.^^^ > ^ ^ ^ 

that they claim to speak for Muslims and no other organi- 
zation has so far risen which can successfully challenge that 
claim. Their aggressively communal character gives them 
a pull over the large number of nationalist Muslims who 
merge themselves in the Congress. The leaders of these 
organizations are patently and intensely communal. That, 
from the very nature of things, one can understand. But 
it is equally obvious that most of them are definitely anti- 
national and political reactionaries of the worst kind. Ap- 
parently rfjSXjio jaot jeven look forward to any^commpri 
iwtion^ Developing in India. At a meeting in the British 
House of Commons last year the Aga Khan, Sir Moham- 
mad Iqbal and Dr. Shafaat Ahmad Khan are reported (in 
the 'Statesman' of December 31, 1932) to have laid stress 
on "the inherent impossibility of securing any merger of 
Hindu and Muslim, political, or indeed social, interests". 
The speakers further pointed out "the impracticability of 
ever governing India through anything but a British 
agency". These statements leave no loophole for nationalism 
or for Indian freedom, now or even in the remote future. 
I do not think that these statements represent the views 
of Muslims generally or even of most of the communally 
inclined Muslims. But they are undoubtedly the views of 


fche dominant and politically clamorous group among the 
Muslims. It is an insult to one's intelligence to link these 
views with those of nationalism and freedom and of course 
any measure of real economic freedom is still further away 
from them. Essentially, this is an attitude of pure reaction 
political, cuk^^j^^natipnal^ social. And it :'i? not sur- 

prisuig*t!iat this should be so if one examines the member- 
ship of these organizations. Most of the leading members 
are government officials, ex-officials, ministers, would-be 
ministers, knights and title holders, big landlords etc. Their 
leader is the Aga Khan, the head of a wealthy religious 
group, who continues in himself, most remarkably, the 
feudal order and the politics and habits of the British ruling 
class, with which he has been intimately associated for 
many years. 

Such being the leadership of the Muslims in India and 
at the Round Table Conference it is no wonder that their 
attitude should be reactionary. This reactionary policy 
went so far as to lead many of the Muslim delegates in 
London to seek an alliance with the^most reactionary ele- 
ments in British public life Lord Lloyd and Company. 
And the final touch was given to it when Gandhiji offered 
personally to accept every single one of their communal 
demands, however illogical and exaggerated they might be, 
on condition that they assured him of their full support 
in the political struggle for independence. That condition 
and offer was not accepted and it became clear that what 
stood in the way was not even communalism but political 

Personally I think that it is generally possible to co- 
operate with communalists provided the political objective 
is the same. But between progress and reaction, between 


those who struggle for freedom and those who are content 
with servitude, and even wish to prolong it, there is no 
meeting ground. And it is this political reaction wjnckha$ 

a***^^,^ , Ct>*r>"rwv"'f*^ j-__-ju jivr-jr.-- *-* *^^a^sJ&VTfc* Jt^*.-.**^^^.,**."^. ^v:^.iVr^*s^ lh - J *S* f; ' 

stalked the land under cover jDfjrommu^ 

a3vantage o the fear of each community of the ather. It 

^CMaitex'tbat we Tiave to deal with in thgse com- 

" " 

^ We see this fear 

overshadowing the communal sky in India as a whole so 
far as Muslims are concerned; we see it as an equally potent 
force in the Punjab and Sind so far as the Hindus are con- 
cerned, and in the Punjab the Sikhs. 

It was natural for the British government to support 
and push on the reactionary leaders of the Muslims and to 
try to ignore the nationalist ones. It was also natural for 
them to accede to most of their demands in order to 
strengthen their position in their own community and 
weaken the national struggle. A very little knowledge of 
history will show that this has always been done by ruling 
powers. The Muslim demands did not in any way lessen 
the control of the British in India. To some extent they 
helped the British to add to their proposed special powers 
and to show to the world how necessary their continued 
presence in India was. 

I have written all this about the attitude of the Muslim 
communalist leaders not only to complete the picture but 
because it is a necesary preliminary to the understanding of 
the Hindu communal attitude. There is no essential differ- 
ence between the two. But there was this difference that 
the Congress drew into its ranks most of the vital elements 



of Hindu society and it dominated the situations and thus 
circumstances did not permit the Hindu communalists to 
play an important role in politics. The Hindu Mahasabha 
leaders largely confined themselves to criticising the Cong- 
ress. When however there was a lull in Congress activities, 
automatically the Hindu communalists came more to the 
front and their attitude was frankly reactionary. 

It must be remembered that the communalism of a 
majority community must of necessity bear a closer re- 
semblance to nationalism than the communalism of a 
minority group. One of the best tests of its true nature is 
what relation it bears to the national struggle. If it is poli- 
tically reactionary or lays stress on communal problems 
rather than national ones, then it is obviously anti-national. 

The Simon Commission, as is well known, met with a 
widespread and almost unanimous boycott in India. Bhai 
Parmanandji, in his recent presidential address at Ajmer, 
says that this boycott was unfortunate for the Hindus, and 
he approvingly mentions that the Punjab Hindus (probably 
under his guidance) cooperated with the commission. Thus 
Bhaiji is of opinion that, whatever fhe natural aspect of 
the question might have been, it was desirable for the 
Hindus to cooperate with the British Government in order 
to gain some communal advantages. This is obviously an 
anti-national attitude. Even from the narrow communal 
point of view it is difficult to see its wisdom, for communal 
advantages can only be given at the expense of another 
community, and when both seek the favours of the rul- 
ing power, there is little chance of obtaining even a super- 
ficial advantage. 

Bhaiji's argument, repeatedly stated, is that the British 
government is so strongly entrenched in India that it can- 


not be shaken by any popular movement and therefore it 
is folly to try to do so. The only alternative is to seek its 
favours. That is an argument which I can only charac- 
terize, with all respect to him, as wholly unworthy of any 
people however fallen they might be. 

Bhaiji's view is that the cry of Hindu-Muslim unit^ is 
a false cry and a wrong ic!eal to aim at because tLe power oT 
gift is in the liands of the goyernment. Granting this 
power of gift, every cry other than one of seeking the 
government's favours is futile. And if the possibility of 

^ ^tu(w*jfnj/><it-- J .-*k" v -' ~* .-t ^-.f^ *** * 

Hindu-Muslim cooperation and collaboration is ruled out, 
nationalism is also ruled out in the country-wide sense of 
the x wor,d. The inevitable consequence, and Bhaiji accepts 
this, is what he calls "Hindu nationalism", which is but 
another name for Hindu communalism. What is the way 
to this? Cooperation with British imperialism. "I feel an 
impulse within me", says Bhaiji in his presidential address, 
"that the Hindus would willingly cooperate with Great 
Britain if their status and responsible position as the premier 
community in India is recognized in the political institu- 
tions of new India." 

This attitude of trying to combine with the ruling 
power against another community or group is the natural 
and only policy which communalism can adopt. It fits in 
of course entirely with the wishes of the ruling power which 
can then play off one group against another. It was the 
policy which was adopted by the Muslim communalists with 
some apparent temporary advantage to themselves. It is 
the policy which the Hindu Mahasabha partly favoured 
from its earliest days but could not adopt wholeheartedly 
because of the pressure of nationalist Hindus, and which its 
leaders now seems to have definitely adopted. 


Dr. Moonje, presiding over the C. P. Hindu Con- 
ference on May 17, 1933 made it clear that "the Mahasabha 
never had any faith in the kind of non-cooperation which 
Mahatma Gandhi has been preaching and practising. It 
believes in the eternal Sanatan Law of stimulus and res- 
ponse, namely, responsive cooperation. The Mahasabha 
holds that whatever may be the constitution of the legisla- 
tures, they should never be boycotted." Dr. Moonje is an 
authority on 'Sanatan Law', but I hope it does not lay down 
that the response -to % kick should be grovelling at the Jeet 

of him who kicks. This speech was made when a wide- 

-*~- ,-> ^ w ^,^. ._ * 

spread national struggle was going on and there was unpre- 
cedented repression under the Ordinance regime. I shall 
not discuss here the wisdom of stating, long before the 
British made constitution had taken shape, that whatever 
happens they would work it. Was this not an invitation 
to the government to ignore the Mahasabha for in any event 
it would accept the new dispensation? 

Dr. Moonje himself went to the Round Table Con- 
ference in 1930, at the height of tjje Civil Disobedience 
Movement, though in justice to him it must be stated that 
he had declared that he went in his individual capacity. 
Subsequently of course the Mahasabha took full part in the 
London conferences and committees. 

Of the part taken by the Mahasabha representatives in 
these deliberations, especially by those from the Punjab and 
Sind, I wish only to say that it was a most painful one. 
Politically it was most reactionary and efforts were made 
to increase the reserved powers and safeguards of the British 
government or the governors in order to prevent the Muslim 
majorities in certain provinces from exercising effective 
power. The identical policy and argument of the Muslim 


communalists in regard to the whole of India were repeated 
by Hindu communalists in regard to certain provinces. But 
of course the special powers of governors were not going to 
be confined to some provinces. They would inevitably 
apply to all the provinces. The reason for this reactionary 
attitude in both the cases was of course fear of the majority. 
Whatever the reason, this played entirely into the hands of 
the British government. 

The whole of the case of the Sind Hindu Sabha is a 
negation of the principle of democracy, except in so far as 
joint electorates are demanded. It is an attempt to prevent 
the will of the majority from prevailing because the 
minority might suffer. The anti-social arguments of greater 
wealth and education of the minority are advanced, and 
financial reasons based entirely on the continuation of the 
top-heavy British system are made a prop. Wealth and 
economic control are not only sufficient protection under 
modern conditions, but have to be protected against. Al- 
most every argument that has been advanced by the Sind 
Hindu communalists can be advanced by the Muslim 
minority in India as a whole with this difference that the. 
Hindus are generally the richer and more educated com- 
munity and have thus greater economic power. 

In the attempts to show the backwardness of the 
Muslims in Sind the Sind Hindu Sabha memorandum to 
the Joint Parliamentary Committee has made sweeping 
statements about Muslims which are astonishing and most 
painful to read. They remind one of Katherine Mayo's 
methods of denunciation. 

I do not know what the Punjab Hindu Sewak Sabha 

T" PW '" > >* 1 ^*--'hi*S*<>r^^x^.j.^^ /^ *S ,-<_. -L-SC 

is. Probably it is not connected with the Hindu Sabha, 
and it may only be a mushroom growth fathered by our 


benign government. On the eve of Bhai Parmanand's 
departure for England last May, to give evidence before the 
Joint Committee, this Sabha sent him a message which laid 
stress on the retention of safeguards by governors in order 
to protect the Hindus of the Punjab. "The only thing", it 
said, "that can protect the Punjab Hindus is the effective 
working of safeguards as provided in the constitution." 
"Let not any endeavours of the politicians lead to the abro- 
gation of these safeguards The judicious discharge 

of their special responsibility by our Governors has been 
greatly helpful." 

Another organization, of which I know nothing, the 
'Punjab Hindu ^ Yputh^e^gpe* of Lahore, stated as follows 
in af puBlic statement dated May 29, 1933: "We feel that 
the time has now come for unity not so much between 
Moslems and Hindus as between the British and Indians . . 
Hindu leaders. . . .should insist on having safeguards for 
the Hindu minority in the constitutions and cabinets." 

I cannot hold the Mahasabha responsible for these 
statements but as a matter of fact th^yr fit in with, and are 
only a slight elaboration of, the Mahasabha attitude. 
And they bear out that many Hindu communalists are 
definitely thinking on the lines of cooperation with British 
imperialism in the hope of getting favours. It requires 
little argument to show that this attitude is not only nar- 
rowly communal but also anti-national and intensely re- 
actionary. If this is the attitude when the Hindu 
Mahasabha feels that it has lost all along the line, in so far 
as the Communal Award is concerned, one wonders what its 
attitude will be when a petty favour is shown to it by 
The Government. 

It is perfectly true that the Hindu Mahasabha has stood 


for joint electorates right through its career and this is 
obviously the only national solution of the problem. It is 
also true that the Cg^^ngl,^ag4 is an utter negation 
of nationalism ^ST^meaSt toseparate India into com- 
munal compartments and give strength to disruptive 
tendencies and thus to strengthen the hold of British im- 

cannot^ te^^ 

c^lUOUUUty* The test comes in the provinces where there 
is a Muslim majority and in that test the Hindu Mahasabha 
has failed. 

Nor is it enough to blame Muslim communalists. It 
is easy enough to do so for Indian Muslims as a whole are 
unhappily very backward and compare unfavourably with 
Muslims in all other countries. The point is that a special 
responsibility does attach to the Hindus in India both be- 
cause they are the majority community and because eco- 
nomically and educationally they are more advanced. The 
Mahasabha, instead of discharging that responsibility, has 
acted in a manner which has undoubtedly increased the 
communalism of the Muslims and made them distrust the 
Hindus all the more. Th^j^lx_waxJkJm^ 
their communalism is by its own variety of communalism. 

,.****, ,r,*-,E-^,^ H ,. , ^ ., > ^<^._ .r^.*^*.'..*^*'^***.*'.^**** *.*>**>**' '*,. 

x^ end the other j^ ^ach Jteeds pp. 


The Mahasabha at Ajmer has passed a long resolution 
on the Communal Award pointing out its obvious faults 
and inconsistencies. But it has not so far as I am aware 
said a word in criticism of the White Paper scheme. I am 
not personally interested in petty criticisms <rf that scheme 
because I think that it is wholly bad and is incapable of 
improvement. But from the Mahasabha's point of view to 


ignore it was to demonstrate that it cared little, if at all, 
about the political aspect of Indian freedom. It thought 
only in terms of what the Hindus got or did not get. It 
has been reported that a resolution on independence was 
brought forward but this was apparently suppressed. Not 
only that, but no resolution on the political or economic 
oi^C&y^wa? M$$*S&' ^ ^ e Watasabna claims to re- 
present the Hindus of India, must it be said that the Hindus 
are not interested in the freedom of India? 

Ordinarily this would be remarkable enough. But in 
present day conditions and with the background of the past 
few years of heroic struggle and sacrifice, such a lapse can 
have only one meaning that the Mahasabha has ceased to 
think even in terms of nationalism and is engrossed in 
communal squabbles. Or it may be that the policy is a 
deliberate one so as to avoid irritating the Government with 
which the Mahasabha wishes to cooperate. 

This view is strengthened by the fact that no reference 
is made in the resolutions or in the presidential address to 
the Ordinance rule and the extraordimary measures of re- 
pression which the Government has indulged in and is still 
indulging in. The Mahasabha seems to live in a world of 
its own unconnected with the struggles and desires and 
sufferings of the Indian people. 

Even more significant was the refusal (if newspaper 
reports are to be credited) to pass a resolution of condolence 
on the death, under tragic circumstances, of Syt. J. M. Sen- 
Gupta. This was a harmless resolution, a formal tribute 
to the memory of a great patriot and a Hindu, and yet the 
Mahasabha sensed danger in it. 

Our friends the moderates or liberals, though they may 
be lacking in action and though their methods and ideology 


may be utterly inadequate, still consider these questions 
and pass resolutions on them. Not so the Mahasabha 
which has moved away completely from the political and 
national plane and rests itself solely on the communal issue, 
thereby weakening even its communal position. I submit 
that this attitude is wholly reactionary and anti-national. 
I have some contacts with the outside world, through 
foreign newspapers and other means, and I should like to 
tell the Mahasabha leaders that, whatever their motives or 
methods may have been, they have succeeded in creating 
a considerable amount of prejudice abroad against the 
Mahasabha and the communally inclined Hindus. 

I_cannpt say what follQwing the Hindu or Muslim 
communal organizations have. It is possible that in a 
moment of communal excitement each side may command 
the allegiance of considerable numbers. But I do submit 
that on both sides these organizations represent the rich 
upper class groups and the struggle for communal advan- 
tages is really an attempt of these groups to take as big a 
share of power and privilege for themselves as possible. 
At the most jit means jobs for a few of^our unemployed 
^ts)J^tij|ls. Ho^_4Q^,5fe?? .cpn^unal 4?nnik. meet 
th^needs^pf the masses? What is the programme of the 
Hindu Mahasabha or the Muslim League for the workers, 
the peasants, and the lower middle classes, which form 
the great bulk of the nation? They^ have no > programme 
except a negative one^ as the Mahasabha hinted at Aimer, 

,^^M-^^*s.^5-.j^v.^*^4*t rfr '^^^a 4 ^ f *t' J ^^ j * 

of not disturbing the present social order. This in itself 
shows that the controlling forces of these communal orga- 
nizations are the upper class possessing social groups today. 
The Muslim communalists tell us a great deal about the 

._jrri LI.., i i i ,j." .::-" ' ~^-~~> -... .-y--_- _- vjV., <&$>*.& f>t.3r > 

democracy ox Islam but are afraid of democracy in practice; 




am convinced that 

come out of the ideological fusion of Hindu, Muslim, Sikh 

-- ~.-.* ^v*-" w**ww- >.. A v. yj , v^TT ,. .... ,+*ty_ T ..,. -> ,.^,-^OV,-; <-;'> < -"- > ** v ** 

9^jg^f^jy^^m f lnc^. That does not and need not 

mean the extinction of any reaT culture of any group, 

bi^i^d^/mean/a common nationaflo^^ 

other ^matters are .Igjfcos^^ 

Hindu-Muslim or other unity will come merely by recit- 

nninHii > ..a,n < **^.. wt J . v . J<!T t ,^ ^ ^-,-^f^ ,,~ y A' .. ^...x- - -L. ' ~* , v^ ...v, .of 'dt-^r.** "'**'' '****-"'*' fac**!.*^ 

ing it like a mantra. That it will conxe^ I Jiave no doubt, 
rM~*^^.'*+^v^ c -..^..^---- * ,,-A^^V. .^, . , - ,^ 

but i|_Tnll v cpme from below, not^ above, for j^any,p|,ithose 
above i. are top much interested in British domipatipn^ *$L$ 
hope to greserye their special privileges through it. Serial 
jlg. .fsS&&. w wi|l iney itably ^bring other problems 
They will create cleavages along; <jUfferent 

I have been warned by friends, whose opinion I value, 
that my attitude towar4s communal organization will 
result in antagonizing many people against me. That is 
indeed probable. I have no desire* to antagonize any 
countryman of mine for we are in the midst of a mighty 
struggle against a powerful opponent. But that very 
struggle demands that we must check harmful tendencies 
and always keep the goal before us. I would be false to 
myself, to my friends and comrades, so many of whom 
have sacrificed their all at the altar of freedom, and even 
to those who disapprove of what I say, if I remained a 
silent witness to an attempt to weaken and check our 
great struggle for freedom. Those who, in my opinion, 
are helping in this attempt, may be perfectly honest in the 
beliefs they hold. I do not challenge their bona fides. 
But nonetheless the beliefs may be wrong, anti-national 


and reactionary. 

I write as an individual, and, in this matter, I claim 
to represent no one but myself. Many may agree with 
me; I hope they do. But whether they do so or not, I 
must say frankly what I have in my mind. That is not 
perhaps the way of politicians for in politics people are 
very careful of what they say and do not say lest they 
offend some group or individual and lose support. But 


have driven me jo^is^jfi^ and^ jt inajr Jbg* . &$ J Jjve 

yet to learn^ths.ways^ 

November 27, 1933 


I have read with care the frank and courteous state- 
ment that Sir Mohammad Iqbal has issued to the press 
and I gladly accept his invitation to answer the question 
he has formulated. But first I must refer to the incident 
during the communal negotiations at the second Round 
Table Conference, which has been mentioned by Sir 
Mohammad. I am obviously not in a position to say any- 
thing about it from my own knowledge, and others, who 
are in a better position, will no doubt clear up any mis- 
apprehensions that may have arisen. But when Sir Moham- 
mad refers to any condition laid down by Gandhiji as an 
'inhuman condition', I am quite sure that he is under a 
serious misapprehension. 

Sir Mohammad says that Gandhiji was prepared to 
accept, in his personal capacity, the demands of the Muslim 
delegates to the Round Table Conference, but that he 
could not guarantee the acceptance of his position by the 
Congress. It seems to me obvious that Gandhiji, or any 
one else in his position, could not possibly adopt any other 
course. No representative of a democratic organization 
could do so. Even the Working Committee of the Congress 
could not go behind the Congress resolutions; it could 
only refer the question to the All-India Congress Committee 
or the open session of the Congress which is the final 
authority. Quite apart from the general Congress atti- 
tude, it was well known that a considerable section of 


Muslim opinion in India, the Muslim Nationalists, were 
opposed to some of those demands. Gandhiji had repeat- 
edly stated in India, prior to his departure for England, 
that he would accept the decision of Dr. M. A. Ansari as 
(representing the Muslim Nationalists, on this question. 
He had further stated that if the two Muslim groups 
could arrive at an agreement, he would unhesitatingly 
accept it. In order to facilitate this he had pressed hard 
for the inclusion of Dr. Ansari's name among the dele- 
gates to the Round Table Conference, but this repeated 
request was apparently strenuously opposed by the Muslim 
delegates in London. In spite of all this and as a last 
effort to bring about some agreement, Gandhiji went to 
the length of committing himself personally. It is obvious 
that although he could not bind the Congress, his com- 
ment and pleadings would have gone a tremendous way 
in converting the Congress. 

The second condition said to have been laid down 
by Gandhiji was that Muslim delegates should not sup- 
port the special claims of the depressed classes. This, 
according to Sir Mohammad, was "an inhuman condition" 
as it meant that the depressed classes should continue to 
be kept down. This is an extraordinary conclusion. If 
there is one thing more than another that Gandhiji has 
stood for and stands for to-day, it is that the depressed 
classes should cease to be depressed or exploited or handi- 
capped in any way, and that they should be on a perfect 
level with every other group. It was because he felt that 
if they were placed in a separate compartment by them- 
selves they would have a stigma attached to them and 
fusion with others would become more difficult, that he 
opposed their separation. It is well-known that a 


certain alliance was formed in London during the second 
Round Table Conference between the delegates of some 
minority groups and British Conservatives. Gandhiji 
evidently wanted the Muslim delegates not to support the 
demand for the separation of the depressed classes into a 
distinct group. So far as I know, he has never opposed 
the grant of special and additional representation to the 
depressed classes. Indeed, he holds that every facility 
must be given them to advance and catch up to the more 
advanced groups and communities. Subsequent events 
have demonstrated how far he is prepared to go in this 
direction. Socialist as I am, I fail to see any flaw or any 
impropriety in this reasoning. 

Sir Mohammad evidently suspects a sinister design on 
Gandhiji's part. He hints that what Gandhiji is after is 
not so much the raising of the depressed classes, but the 
prevention of their fusion with the other communities, 
especially, I suppose, the Muslims in India. It is difficult 
to meet a suspicion and a prejudice which has little reason 
behind it, but any one who knows Gandhiji at all will 
consider the suggestion that he is worlflng for the Harijan 
movement with a political motive as absurd. Personally, 
I am not interested in religious labels and I am sure that 
they will soon disappear, or, at any rate, cease to have any 
political significance. Sir Mohammad evidently still 
attaches political significance to them. Gandhiji, to my 
knowledge, does not, but he is certainly a man of religion 
and he believes in the essentials of the Hindu faith. He 
wants to restore these essentials and to sweep away the 
accretions. It is because he feels that untouchability is a 
degrading and a disgusting accretion that he fights against 
it. It is quite wrong to say that he does not want a fusion 


between the depressed classes and caste Hindus. Indeed 
he wants this as well as a fusion between both of these 
and the other communities in India. But, like Sir 
Mohammad, he is enamoured of certain basic essential of 
culture and he wants to preserve these and at the same time 
to give perfect freedom to other cultural forms. 

Personally my outlook is different. ^J&jg^tJS^Siffi^ 
andj JmjLjj; j&fllcjdt, to thinly of .groups ;n j^rms of reli- 
gigjj. Sir Mohammad evidently does so to the exclusion 
or other and more modern ways of thinking, and I am 
afraid he confuses religion with race and culture. Perhaps 
it is because of this that he advances a biological argument 
which I entirely fail to understand. Having condemned 
Gandhiji for a fancied attempt to prevent the fusion of 
the depressed classes with other communities he says that 
in his opinion a fusion of the different communities in 
India is a chimerical notion and the sooner the idea is 
given up the better. 

The question whether biological fusion of different 
groups in India is going to take place or not raises a host 
of issues and is chiefly interesting from the point of view 
of eugenics and culture. It is not, directly, a political 
question and present interest in it can only be academic. 
I think that it is inevitable that we should go towards 
such fusion but I cannot say when it is likely to become 
an accomplished fact. 

But what has this got to do with the communal issue? 
Are Muslims or Sikhs or Indian Christians, as religious 
groups, biologically different from the Hindus as a group? 
Are we different species of animals or of homo sapiens ? 
There are racial and cultural differences in India but these 


differences have nothing to do with the religious divisions; 
they cut athwart the lines of religious cleavage. If a 
person is converted to another religion he does not change 
his biological make-up or his racial characteristics or to 
any great extent his cultural back-ground. Cultural types 
are national not religious and modern conditions are help- 
ing in the development of an international type. Even 
in past times various cultures influenced each other and 
produced mixed types but, as a rule, the national type 
dominated. This has certainly been so in countries with 
an ancient culture, like India, Persia and China. 

What is Muslim culture? Is it the Semitic Arabian 
culture or the Aryan Persian culture or is it a mixture of 
the two? Arabian culture, after a period of glory, re- 
ceded into the background, but even in the height of its 
triumph it was powerfully influenced by Persian culture. 
It had little, if any, influence on India. Persian culture 
is essentially pre-Islamic and one of the remarkable lessons 
of history is the persistence, for thousands of years, of this 
old Iranian culture and tradition. Even today Persia is 
looking back to the pre-Islamic tifties for her cultural 
inspiration. This Persian culture certainly influenced 
India and was influenced by her. But even so the Indian 
culture dominated in India and stamped its impress on the 
outsiders who came to her. 

Today in India there is absolutely no cultural or racial 
difference between the Muslim and Hindu masses. Even 
the handful of upper class Muslims in north India, who 
perhaps think themselves apart from the rest of the country, 
bear the impress of India on them all over the place and 
are only superficially Persianized. Would any of them be 
more at home or more in harmony with their surround- 


ings in Persia or Arabia or Turkey or any other Islamic 
country ? 

As a matter of fact this question has only a historical 
and academic interest because modern industrial conditions 
and rapid transport and frequent intercourse between 
different peoples are resulting in developing an interna- 
tional type of culture and obliterating to a large extent 
national cultural boundaries. Does Sir Mohammad Iqbal 
approve of what is taking place in Central Asia, Turkey, 
Egypt, and Persia? Or does he think that Indian Muslims 
will remain immune from the forces that are shaping and 
reforming Islamic countries? Whether he approves or 
not, world forces will continue to act breaking up the 
old and out of date and building up the new. Personally 
I welcome this process, though I have no desire to see the 
world standardized and made after a single pattern. I 
should like to have the different world cultures keep their 
rich inheritance and at the same time to adapt themselves 
to changing conditions. 

So far as India is concerned, not only do I believe 
that a unitary Indian nation is possible but that, funda- 
mentally and culturally, it exists in spite of numerous 
superficial differences. The present communal problem is 
entirely a political creation of upper-class groups in the 
various communities and has no relation to racial or cul- 
tural matters or the basic needs of the masses. 

I now come to Sir Mohammad's Straight question' to 
me. There is a great difference in his outlook and mine 
and I am unable to think in terms of religious majorities or 
minorities. It is possible, therefore, that we may talk 
round each other and use words and phrases in different 



senses. But for the present I shall try to use these words 
in Sir Mohammad's sense. 

I am not prepared to leave the decision of any vital 
matter affecting India or the Indian people to any outside 
authority, and certainly not to the Imperialist power that 
governs us and exploits our weaknesses and differences. 
I agree that the majority community should 'concede the 
minimum safeguards necessary for the protection of a 
minority/ But what are these minimum safeguards and 
who is to decide them? The minority itself? As a general 
rule I am prepared to agree to this also, though there may 
be exceptions when vital matters affecting the nation are 
concerned. We may, for the present, rule out these 
exceptions. How then are we to know what the minority 
community really desires? Are we to take the opinion 
of any small group claiming to represent the community? 
And when there are several such groups, what are we to 
do? Neither the Muslim League nor the Muslim Con- 
ference can claim to be democratic or representative bodies 
and a considerable number of Muslims are opposed to 
their demands. The Council of the Muslim League appa- 
rently the Council exists in the air and there is no other 
body behind it is a more or less permanent, self -electing 
or nominating body. The Muslim Conference is domina- 
ted by its very constitution by the Muslim members of the 
official legislatures. How can these bodies claim to re- 
present the Muslims generally in India and, more specially, 
the Muslim masses? They may occasionally give expression 
to a prevailing sentiment. Then again are we to consider 
a group of persons, chosen by the ruling Imperialist 
power for the Round Table Conference, as representatives 


of the Muslim masses? They may be estimable persons, 
but they certainly have no representative capacity. 

The only way to find out the wishes of the Muslims 
of India is to consult them and the democratic method is 
for them to elect representative for the purpose of as wide 
a franchise as possible, preferably adult franchise. I am 
perfectly prepared to abide by any decision of theirs so 
arrived at. 

I should like Sir Mohammad Iqbal to consider his 
fourteen points which are supposed to provide the mini- 
mum safeguards necessary for the protection of the 
Muslims, and to spot anything in them which benefits or 
raises up the Muslim masses. As he knows, my chief 
interest in politics is the raising of the masses and the 
removal of barriers of class and wealth and the equal- 
ization of society. This point of view was apparently never 
considered by the framers and advocates of the fourteen 
points. It is natural that I should not feel enthusiastic 
about them. But if the Muslims declare for them in the 
democratic way I have suggested, I shall accept these de- 
mands and I am quite sure that they would be accepted by 
the nation as a whole. I imagine, however, that when the 
Muslim masses are consulted they will lay far more stress 
on economic demands which affect them as well as the non- 
Muslim masses intimately rather than on such demands as 
interest a handful of upper class people. 

The political problem of India can only be decided by 
the Indian people themselves without the intervention of 
an outside authority, so also the communal problem. And 
the only way to proceed in regard to both of these is to go 


to the people themselves. A Constituent Assembly elected 
on an adult or near-adult franchise alone can decide the 
political issue. I am personally prepared to have elections 
for this Assembly by separate electorates for those minorities 
who so desire it. The representatives of these minorities, 
so elected, will have every right to speak for them and no 
one can say that the majority community has influenced 
their election. Let these people consider the communal 
question and, as I have stated above, I shall accept the de- 
mand put forward by the Muslim representatives. 

Sir Muhammad will observe that I am placing before 
him a democratic and feasible solution of the problem and 
I am even keeping the Congress out of it. I am sure the 
Congress will gladly efface itself if this solution is put 

My answer to Sir Mohammad Iqbal's question there- 
fore is this. I do not think that these are the only two 
alternatives he mentions. There are many other avenues. 
In any event he ought to know full well, that if any com- 
munity, majority or minority, seeks an alliance with imper- 
ialism, it will have to face the unrelenting and continuous 
opposition and hostility of Indian nationalism. As a matter 
of fact, no community or minority, can do so. Only a 
few leaders and upper class people may do so, for every 
community as a whole suffers from it. The masses can 
never compromise with imperialism for their only hope lies 
in freedom from its shackles. 

Nor do I believe in the religious distribution of India. 
Such divisions are most undesirable and cannot take place 
in the modern world. But I am not against redistribution 


or reshaping of different provinces which will give differ- 
ent cultural groups the fullest opportunity for self-develop- 

December 11, 1933 


The suggestion made by me that both the political 
and communal problems in India should be solved by 
means of a Constituent Assembly has met with consi- 
derable favotfn T^ffl it and so have 
many others. Others again have misunderstood it or not 
taken the trouble to understand it. 

Politically and nationally, if it is granted, as it must 
be, that the people of India are to be the sole arbiters of 
India's fate and must therefore have full freedom to draw 
up their constitution, it follows that this can only be done 
by means of a Constituent Assembly elected on the widest 
franchise. Those who believe in independence have no 
other choice. Even those who talk vaguely in terms of a 
nebulous Dominion Status must agree that the decision has 
to be made by the Indian people. How then is this decision 
to be made? Not by a group of so-called leaders or indi- 
viduals. Not by those self -constituted bodies called All 
Parties Conferences which represent, if any body at all, 
small interested groups and leave out the vast majority 
of the population. Not even, let us admit, by the Na- 
tional Congress, powerful and largely representative as it 
is. It is of course open to the Congress to influence and 
largely control the Constituent Assembly if it can carry 
the people with it. JSut^the ^Jtjmate ppUticaldes&ipn 
i^stjie wk^^ through a popu- 

larly elected Constituent Assembly. 


This Assembly of course can have nothing in com- 
mon with the sham and lifeless Councils and Assemblies 
imposed on us by an alien authority. It must derive its 
sanction from the people themselves without any outside 
interference. I have suggested that it should be elected 
under adult or near-adult franchise. What the method 
of election should be can be considered and decided later. 
Personally I favour the mtroductipfi, as far as possible, of 
the functional system of election as this is far more re- 

K*****-*-* - J 4 '"- '" '" ~"y *>*' ,.,.---' * , ,-..-K. n >- ^''^ tllt ^^^^ lf ^^.v,^^' f '-^->-^- i ^ f ^^' -^!^- l ^^ r ^.^'' 

presentative or real interests. The geographical system 
often covers up and confuses these interests. But I am 
prepared to agree to either or to a combination of both. 
I see no difficulty, except one, and that is an important one, 
in the way of such a Constituent Assembly being elected 
and functioning. This functioning will be limited to 
drawing up of a constitution and then fresh elections will 
have to be held on the basis of the new constitution. 

The one difficulty I referred to is the presence and 
dominance of an outside authority, that is the British 
Government. It is clear that so long as this dominance 
continues no real Constituent Assembly can meet or func- 
tion. So that an essential preliminary is the development 
of sufficient strength in the nation to be able to enforce 
the will of the Indian people. Two opposing wills can- 
not prevail at the same time; there must be conflict bet- 
ween them and a struggle for dominance, such as we see 
today in India. Essentially, this struggle is for the pre- 
servation of British vested interests in India and the White 
Paper effort is an attempt to perpetuate them. No 
Constituent Assembly can be bound down by these chains, 
and so long as the nation has not developed strength 
enough to break these chains, such an Assembly cannoc 



This Assembly would also deal with the communal 
problem, and I have suggested that, in order to remove 
all suspicion from the minds of a minority, it may even, 
if it so chooses, have its representatives elected by separate 
electorates. These separate electorates would only be for 
the Constituent Assembly. The future method of elec- 
tion, as well as all other matters connected with the 
constitution, would be settled by the Assembly itself. 

I have further added that if the Muslim elected re- 
presentatives for this Constituent Assembly adhere to cer- 
tain communal demands I shall press for their acceptance. 
Much as I dislike communalism I realise that it does not 
disappear by suppression but by a removal of the feeling 
of fear, or by a diversion of interests. We should there- 
fore remove this fear complex and make the Muslim mas^ 
realise that they can have any protection that they really 
desire. I feel that this realisation will go a long way in 
toning down the feeling of communalism. 

But I am convinced that the r$al remedy lies in a 
diversion of interest from the myths that have been 
fostered and have grown up round the communal ques- 
tion to the realities of today. The bulwark of commu- 
nalism today is political reaction and so we find that 
communal leaders inevitably tend to become reactionaries 
in political and economic matters. Groups of upper class 
people try to cover up their own class interests by making 
it appear that they stand for the communal demands of 
religious minorities or majorities. A critical examination 
of the various communal demands put forward on behalf 
of Hindus, Muslims or others reveals that they have 
nothing to do with the masses. At the most they deal 


with some jobs for a few of the unemployed intellectuals 
but it is obvious that the problem even of the unemployed 
middle class intellectuals cannot be solved by a re-distri- 
bution of State jobs. There are far too many unemployed 
persons of the middle class to be absorbed in state or other 
service and their number is growing at a rapid pace. So 
far as the masses are concerned there is absolutely no 
reference to them or to their wants in the numerous de- 
mands put forward by communal organizations. Appa- 
rently the communalists do not consider them as worthy 
of attention. What is there, in the various communal 
formulae, in regard to the distress of the agriculturists, 
their rent or revenue or the staggering burden of debt 
that crushes them? Or in regard to the factory or railway 
or other workers who have to face continuous cuts in wages 
and a vanishing standard of living? Or the lower middle 
classes who for want of employment and work are sink* 
ing in the slough of despair? Heated arguments take 
place about seats in councils and separate and joint elec- 
torates and the separation of provinces which can affect 
or interest only a few. Is the starving peasant likely to 
be interested in this when hunger gnaws his stomach? 
But our communal friends take good care to avoid these 
real issues, for a solution of them might affect their own 
interests, and they try to divert people's attention to en- 
tirely unreal and, from the mass point of view, trivial 

Communalism is essentially a hunt for favours from 
a third party the ruling power. The communalist can 
only think in terms of a continuation of foreign domi- 
nation and he tries to make the best of it for his own 
particular group. Delete the foreign power and com- 


munal arguments and demands fall to the ground. Both 
the foreign power and the communalists, as representing 
some upper class groups, want no essential change of the 
political and economic structure; both are interested in 
the preservation and augmentation of their vested interests. 
Because of this, both cannot tackle the real economic 
problems which confront the country, for a solution of 
these would upset the present social structure and divest 
the vested interests. For both, this ostrich-like policy of 
ignoring real issues is bound to end in disaster. Facts 
and economic forces are more powerful than governments 
and empires and can only be ignored at peril. 

Communalism thus becomes another name for poli- 
^ical and social reaction and the British Government, being 
the citadel of this reaction in India, naturally throws its 
sheltering wings over a useful ally. Many a false trail is 
drawn to confuse the issue; we are told of Islamic culture 
and Hindu culture, of religion and old custom, of ancient 
glories and the like. But behind all this lies political and 

, * '" <A ""'' '*'**' 

and * 


^ fa* <*& %?u^i^tiy 

realised, it has often sailed under false colours and taken 

jfa-^^A^'.^vt^^'Ww, w^^' 4 ^'''*' -" ' *- -r ..... "- j j ' ," '/ r v ^~% 
in many an unwarv person. It is an undoubted fact that 

^v^^v^-^-'^^^'^^^*' 4 } ( ^*^ ^ y^ .11 

many a Congressman has almost unconsciously partly 
succumbed to it and tried to reconcile his nationalism with 
this narrow and reactionary creed. A real appreciation 
of its true nature would demonstrate that there can be no 
common ground between the two. They belong to 
different species. It is time that Congressmen and others 
who have flirted with Hindu or Muslim or Sikh or any 
other communalism should understand this position and 


hiake their choice. No one can have it both ways, and the 
choice lies between political and social progress and stark 
reaction. An association with any form of communalism 
means the strengthening of the forces of reaction and of 
British imperialism in India; it means opposition to social 
and economic change and a toleration of the present 
terrible distress of our people; it means a blind ignoring 

of world forces and events. 


What are communal organizations? They are not 
religious although they confine themselves to religious 
groups and exploit the name of religion. They are not 
cultural and have done nothing for culture although they 
talk bravely of a past culture. They are not ethical or 
moral groups for their teachings are singularly devoid of 
all ethics and morality. They are certainly not economic 
groupings for there is no economic link binding their 
members and they have no shadow of an economic pro- 
gramme. Some of them claim not to be political even, 

As a matter of fact they function politically and their 
demands are political, but calling themselves non-political, 
they avoid the real issues and only succeed in obstructing 
the path of others. If they are political organizations 
then we are entitled to know exactly how they stand. 
Do they stand for the complete freedom of India or a 
partial freedom, if such a thing exists? Do they stand for 
independence or what is called dominion status? The 
best of words are apt to be misleading and many people 
still think that dominion status is something next door 
to independence. As a matter of fact they are two differ- 
ent types entirely, two roads going in opposite directions. 
It is not a question of fourteen annas and sixteen annas 


but of different species of coins which are not inter- 

Dominion status means continuing in the steel frame 
work of British finance and vested interests; from this 
strangle hold there is no relief under dominion status. 
Independence means a possibility of relief from these bur- 
dens and the freedom to decide about our own social 
structure. Therefore whatever measure of limited free- 
dom we may get under dominion status it will always be 
subject to the paramount claims of the Bank of England 
and British capital, and it will also be subject to the 
continuation of our present economic structure. That 
means that we cannot solve our economic problems and 
relieve the masses of their crushing burdens; we can only 
sink deeper and deeper into the morass. What then do 
the communal organizations stand for: independence or 
dominion status? 

We need not refer to that travesty of a constitution 
which the White Paper is supposed to embody. It is only 
an ungentle reminder to us that British capital and interests 
in India will be preserved at all costs, so long as the British 
Government has power to preserve them. Only those 
who are interested in the preservation of these British vest- 
ed interests or those who are very simple and unsophisti- 
cated can go anywhere near the White Paper or its 

Even more important than the political objective is 
the economic objective. It is notorious that the era of 
politics has passed away and we live in an age when eco- 
nomics dominate national and international affairs. What 
have the communal organizations to say in regard to these 
economic matters? Or are they blissfully ignorant of the 


hunger and unemployment that darken the horizon of the 
masses as well as of the lower middle classes? If they 
claim to represent the masses they must know that the all 
absorbing problem before these unfortunate and unhappy 
millions is the problem of hunger, and they should have 
some answer, some theoretical solution at least, for this 
problem. What do they propose should be done in in- 
dustry and in agriculture? How do they solve the distress 
of the worker and the peasant; what land laws do they 
suggest? What is to happen to the debt of the agricultural 
classes; is it to be liquidated or merely toned down, or is 
it to remain? What of unemployment? Do they believe 
in the present capitalist order of society or do they think 
in terms of a new order? These are a few odd questions 
that arise and an aswer to them, as well as to other similar 
questions, will enlighten us as to the true inwardness of the 
claims and demands of the communalists. Even more so I 
think will the masses be enlightened if the answers manage 
to reach them. The Muslim masses are probably even poorer 
than the Hindu masses but the 'Fourteen Points' say no- 
thing about these poverty stricken Muslims. The Hindu 
communalists also lay all their stress on the preservation 
of their own vested interests and ignore their owrf masses. 
I am afraid I am not likely to get clear, or perhaps 
any, answers to my questions, because the questions are 
inconvenient, partly because the communal leaders know 
little about economic facts and have never thought in 
terms of the masses. Thejjre.exp,ej$ only jta. p^cepJt*g? 
2L^^th<^ b^ttl^ ground is the conference rpom ? not the 

field pr factory .0$ jnarket place. But whether they like 

-f*"-"-^ v r *~ ., f 111 

them or not the questions will force themselves to the 

front and those who cannot answer them effectively will 


find little place for themselves in public affairs. The 

answer of many of us can be given in one comprehensive 

word socialism and in the socialist structure of society. 

But whether socialism or communism is the right 

answer or some other, one thijig^is cgjtaia that the 

answer must be in terms of economics an4 not me&Sy 
pjffij^ are .oppressed by eco- 

nomic problems and there is no escaping .t}j.j$. So long 
|as tlie riillest economic freedom cloes not come to us, there 
can be no freedom whatever the political structure may 
be. Economic freedom must of course; include 

.... - f~U^K*~& -;-'.' '/f-. J i'.; " _ , - , '.' ' 

To go back to the Constituent Assembly. If a really 
popular Assembly met with freedom to face and decide the 
real issues, immediately these real economic problems would 
occupy attention. The so-called communal problem will 
fade into the background for the masses will be far more 
interested in filling their hungry stomachs than in ques- 
tions of percentages. This Assembly will release the vital 
forces in the country which are at present suppressed by 
our foreign rulers as well as by Indian vested interests. 
The lead will go to the masses and the masses, when free> 
though they may sometimes err, think in terms of reality 
and have no use for myths. The workers and the pea- 
santry will dominate the situation, and their decisions, 
imperfect though they be, will take us a long way to 
freedom. I cannot say what the Constituent Assembly 
will decide. But I have faith in the masses and am willing 
to abide by their decision. And I am sure that the com- 
munal problem will cease to exist when it is put to the 


hard test of real mass opinion. It has been a hot house 
growth nurtured in the heated atmosphere of conference 
rooms and so-called All Parties' Conferences. It will not 
find a solution in that artificial environment, but it will 
wilt and die in the fresh air and the sunlight. 

January 4, 1934 


The high walls of a prison shut one off effectively 
from the outside world of change and movement. A 
prisoner's horizon is the top of these walls and the only 
expanse he sees is the blue expanse of the heavens above 
him. But sometimes a benevolent and considerate 
government provides him with little windows from which 
he can survey the wide world beyond. They are narrow 
and coloured, these tiny windows in prison, and they are 
apt to give a restricted and distorted vision. But none the 
less they afford some amusement and are welcome in the 
dull monotony of prison life. 

One such window is The Statesman the "most widely 
read news-paper in all India.'* Daily, Mondays excepted, 
it used to bring an air of romance to us, a breath of 
optimism to cheer us up. And through this many coloured 
window we saw a distressful world struggling in the 
<octopus-grip of depression and conflict and doubt and 
uncertainty; but in this sorry world there was one bright 
spot, the land of India, sheltered from all ills by the 
British Government. Here was the fabled and far-famed 
land of Cockaigne, where every crow was a peacock and 
every goose a swan; here strong silent men, floating serenely 
and majestically in the upper regions, like imperial eagles, 
protected the land and only swooped down occasionally 
to rid it of human rats and other noxious animals; here 
every man in authority was a Solon, and every knighted 


fool a statesman; here, one could almost feel, but for 
the irritating antics of certain miserable, blind and un- 
grateful human beings, that all was for the best under 
this best of all possible governments. 

It was a pleasant thought that when all the rest of 
the world was awry and many of its thinkers were on the 
verge of despair and did not know where to find a remedy, 
there was in India this green oasis of self-confidence and 
self-praise amongst our rulers, and thought and new ideas 
were considered undesirable and unnecessary commodities. 
Such was the general view we had in prison through our 
little window. 

Sometimes, not infrequently, humour came to us to 
lighten the burden of our days, in the shape of speeches 
and addresses by governors; for our governors, though 
stronger than ever, are no longer silent. Having hushed 
other voices, they feel it their duty to shout loud and 
frequently and give us their views on life and its many 
problems. These solo performances became particularly 
amusing when economics and modern social problems were 
touched upon, and a measure of sympathy went out to 
the performers at this addition to their many burdens, 
for which they had received no training. Perhaps the 
sympathy was wasted, for in their own opinion the 
performances may have been adequate. 

Still I shall venture to make a suggestion. Sir 
Malcolm Hailey is considered, with justification, to be a 
successful performer on the platform, and perhaps there 
is no other among the tribe of governors. Sir Malcolm 
is already considered almost too big and too wise a person 
for a governorship. Why not make him a kind of super- 
governor for the training of selected candidates for 



governorship? These aspirants might go through a brief 
course and learn how to deliver a vice-chancellor's address 
with occasionl classical references and many pious plati- 
tudes, and a special dissertation on the danger of students 
or teachers dabbling in politics (all pro-government 
activities of course not being considered politics) ; how to 
answer an address from a municipal board and criticise its 
finances, with a special dissertation on the undesirability 
of municipalities mixing civics with politics (this has of 
course nothing to do with municipal teachers and other 
employees joining Aman Sabhas and similar organisations, 
and publicly working against such illegal or undesirable 
organisations as the Congress. Such public work should 
be commended) * how to praise the police for their loyalty, 
efficiency, self-sacrifice, patriotism, gentleness, non- 
violence, amiability, sweet reasonableness, and purity of 
conduct, and tell them how they are above politics and 
their sole duty is to preserve law and order so that the 
nation may live peacefully and contentedly under the 
shadow of their protection; how Jo address Legislative 
Councils and praise the members for the high statesman- 
ship they have shown in supporting government and the 
real moral courage they have exhibited in holding on to 
their seats in spite of popular disapproval, and further to 
tell them that the British Government stands for and has 
always stood for democracy as against dictatorship (it 
being made clear that the Viceroy's and governors' vast 
powers and ordinances and the like, are not in the nature 
of dictatorship but are meant only to safeguard special 
responsibilities) ; how to attend princes' banquets and 
reply to toasts praising the progressive regime of the prince, 
who, in the course of a brief decade, has succeeded in 


establishing one secondary school, two primary schools, 
two dispensaries, a zoo with a monkey house, three game 
preserves, ten large motor garages, five stables for polo 
ponies, kennels for a large number of dogs, and a jazz 
band, and has built six new palaces to give employment 
to labour; and that, in further consideration for his 
peoples' welfare, keeps away in Europe for most of the 
time; in the reply to the prince it should be pointed out 
that autocracy is obviously suited to the genius of Inlia; 
how to address an association of business men and merchants 
and point out to them that politics must not be mixed up 
with business and trade and true success and prosperity 
lie in the business man sticking to his own job and co- 
operating with the Government and the city of London 
so that India's credit may stand high; how to address 
zamindars and taluqadars and, agreeing with them that 
they are the salt of the Indian earth, encourage them in 
every way to organise themselves and take part in politics, 
so that the semi-feudal zamindari system, which is ideal 
for India, might continue and vested interests may be 
protected, and the constitution have stability; and so 
on. This list has become long enough and must be ended. 
But it will show that the subjects are endless and each one 
has to be dealt with separately from its own angle. 

I have referred to governors' speeches bringing a touch 
of humour to our prison lives. But sometimes they were 
not humorous or amusing, as when Sir Malcolm Hailey 
referred at Muttra to the Congress "hiring young girls and 
old women to go to gaol as political martyrs." 

To go back to our little window The Statesman 
A source of delightful romance that seldom failed was its 
Simla correspondent. In measured language, which gave 


us a glimpse of the powerful mind working behind it, the 
Indian political scene was surveyed and the inner work- 
ings of Gandhiji's and the Congress mind were laid bare 
before us. We were told what they were thinking and 
what they were going to do to extricate themselves from 
the morass in which they had got stuck. Subsequently, 
when Mr. Gandhi or the Congress were foolish enough 
not to act in the manner forecasted, it was pointed out 
with evident truth how inconsistent they were. They 
had evidently changed their minds at the last moment and 
thus played a rather low trick on the Simla correspondent. 
It had been obvious enough before that a few wild men 
of the Congress were dragging Mr. Gandhi along, although 
all he wanted was peace and quiet and an opportunity 
to do solid constructive work. And then, almost as if to 
spite the correspondent, Mr. Gandhi changed places with 
the wild men and became as wild and aggressive as ever, 
dragging the peaceful Congress along with him. This 
was obviously not a sporting thing to do; it was not 

But the true charm of the Simla correspondent lies 
in his inimitable style, which tells us something and yet 
does not tell it, which hints and suggests and indicates and 
insinuates and alludes and yet gracefully avoids definite 
statement, which says something (and yet does not say 
it) in a score of sentences which an unlearned and un- 
sophisticated person would say rather bluntly in one short 
sentence. Perhaps the credit for this coy and coquettish 
style does not wholly belong to the correspondent, and 
it should rightly go to Gorton Castle where sit the mighty 
men weaving the web of India's destiny. 

Sometimes the Simla correspondent excels even his 


own high standard. What could be more delightful than 
the brave comparison of the air-bombing of the frontier 
villages with the far worse tale of death and disaster by 
motor accidents in England's green and pleasant land! Or 
the silencing of ignorant and vulgar critics by the demons- 
tration that no real damage is done by these air raids; the 
inhabitants simply walk out of their huts or houses with 
their wives, goods and chattels, as soon as they receive warn- 
ing, the empty huts are destroyed, and back come the resi- 
dents to build their huts anew and perhaps after a better 
fashion, and life goes on again with scarce a ripple on its 
placid surface. There is little ill-feeling in the matter and 
no doubt, with the resumption of normal relations the 
Khan of Kotkai will lead a deputation to the British autho- 
rities or the R. A. F. to convey their thanks for the oppor- 
tunity given them to rebuild their little towns on more 
modern principles of town-planning. Or perhaps the 
Khan will request that new organization with a fine re- 
sounding name, dear to the heart of The Statesman, the 
"Central Muslim Federation of Delhi," to undertake this 
pleasant task, provided the Khan can locate the Federation. 
But, no doubt, the Delhi office of The Statesman will help 
in the search; and later we shall read all about the depu- 
tation in the principal page of the newspaper, and the 
editor will write a learned and philosophical article on the 
hidden virtues of air-bombing. 

The Simla correspondent occupies a class by himself; 
he defies comparison. But perhaps one may venture to 
place, not far below him, some of the Indian contributors 
to The Statesman, Long research and patient study have 
made them grasp the full significance of the Battle of 
Plassey. They possess a deep and profound knowledge of 


all its implications and consequences, and this learning 
helps them greatly to understand the course of current 
events. It would perhaps not be correct to say that they 
have paid no attention to happenings subsequent to 
Plassey. Occasional flashes, lighting up the interior of 
their minds, have disclosed that they are also fully aware 
of the fact that early in the nineteenth century India took 
to English education and her chosen sons plunged into the 
wells of English political thought. Indeed they could 
hardly ignore this alliance as they themselves are the choice 
fruits of this early marriage. It is also obvious that they 
have heard of the fact that some time in the eighteen- 
seventies Queen Victoria became Empress of India. 

It is by no means clear whether these learned Indian 
contributors of The Statesman have paid any heed to recent 
events such as those that have occurred during the last 
half century or so. Perhaps they feel, lost in the full con- 
templation of Plassey, that a mere fifty years of recent 
history can have little fundamental importance. It may 
be that they are right and we of a later day, without such 
deep roots in the past, and ignorant of the far-reaching 
significance of the Battle of Plassey are apt to attach too 
much importance to recent events. 

Truth, it is said, lives at the bottom of a well. But 
what is a well to the eagle eyes of a Statesman correspon- 
dent! One such correspondent told us once the "Truth 
about the Andamans," those far off islands with an un- 
savoury reputation. Reading his account our fears 
vanished and we began almost to envy those fortunate 
persons who were made to live in these delectable islands. 
We were told that the Andamans were an ideal health re- 
sort for the convicts. The Punjabis thrive there, and, as 


for the Bengalis, "the settlement is climatically a 'home 
from home/ " "One may wonder," continued the corres- 
pondent "why anarchist activities should be considered to 
qualify a man for all these advantages offered him by 
detention in the Andamans." Indeed, one may well 
wonder that even in this paradise some people are mad and 
foolish enough to starve themselves to death! 

And perhaps it is fitting that with this exclamation 
of wonder and amazement we should close this window 
that gave us so many glimpses in prison of the wonderful 
world outside. 


A writer in a recent issue of an English periodical 
stated that the stress and strain of politics and prison life 
had broken me up. I do not know what his sources of in- 
formation were, but I can say from a fairly intimate know- 
ledge of my body and mind, that both of them are tough 
and sound and not in any danger of a break-up or collapse 
in the near future. Fortunately for myself, I have always 
attached importance to bodily health and physical fitness, 
and though I have often enough ill-treated my body, I have 
seldom permitted it to fall ill. Mental health is a more in- 
visible commodity but I have taken sufficient care of that 
also and I am vain enough to imagine that I possess more of 
it than many a person who has not bad to suffer the strain 
of active Congress politics and passive gaol life. 

But my health or ill-health is a small matter which need 
not worry any one, although friends and newspapers have 
given it undue prominence. What is far more important, 
from the national and social point of view, is the state of 
the prisons and the bodily and mental conditions of the vast 
population that they house in India. It is a notorious fact 
that strong and brave men have suffered greatly and even 
collapsed bodily under the terrible strain of prolonged gaol 
life and detention. I have seen my nearest and dearest 
suffer in prison and the list of my personal friends who have 
done so is a long and painful one. Only recently a dear 


and valued colleague, a friend whom I first met in Cam- 
bridge more than a quarter of a century ago, and who was 
among the bravest of the brave in this unhappy country 
of ours, J. M. Sen-Gupta, met his death while under 

It is natural that we should feel the sufferings of our 
colleagues, and those whom we have known, more than 
the misery of the thousands who are unknown to us. And 
yet it is not about them that I am writing these few lines. 
We, who have willingly sought to pass the forbidding iron 
gates of prison have no wish to squeal or to complain of 
/the treatment given. If any of our countrymen are in- 
terested and wish to raise the question, it is for them to do 
so. Such questions are frequently raised, but as a rule they 
relate to well-known individuals, and special treatment for 
them is sought on the ground of their social position. To 
meet the clamour, a small handful are given what it called 
"A" and "B" class treatment; the great majority, probably 
over 95 per cent., face the full rigours of gaol life. 

This differentiation into various classes has often been 
criticised and rightly criticised. To a slight extent it might 
be justified on medical grounds for it is highly probable 
that some people, used to a different diet, may develop the 
most violent disorders, as indeed many do, if they have to 
subsist on gaol diet. It is also obvious that some persons 
are physically incapable of the extreme forms of manual 
labour. But, apart from this, it is a little difficult to im- 
agine the justification for depriving "C" class prisoners of 
the so-called privileges given to others. A higher class is 
supposed to be given because of higher "social status* or a 
higher standard of life. One of the tests laid down, I be- 
lieve, is the amount of land revenue a person pays. Does 


it follow from a higher revenue that the person is more 
attached to his family and is therefore entitled to more 
interviews or letters? Or that greater facilities should be 
given for reading and writing? Those who pay large sums 
as land revenue are not usually noted for their intellectual 

I do not, of course, mean to imply that those who get 
special facilities for interviews or letters or reading and 
writing should be deprived of these. These so-called privi- 
leges are poor enough as they stand, and it is wdl to realise 
that in most other countries the worst and lowest type of 
prisoner gets far more 'privileges' of this kind than even the 
'A' class prisoner in India. And yet these 'A* and *B' class 
privileges are given to such an insignificant number that 
they might well be ignored in considering the Indian prison 
system. Fundamentally, 'A' and 'B' classes are meant as 
something to show off and soothe public opinion. Most 
people who do not know the real facts are misled by them. 

Some of the 'A* class prisoners, as also especially some 
of the detenus or State prisoners, Have often to undergo 
one experience which is peculiarly distressing. They are 
kept alone without a companion for many months at a 
time, and , as every doctor knows, this loneliness is very bad 
for the average person. Only those who have strictly 
trained and disciplined their minds and can turn inwards, 
can escape ill effects. It is true that the prisoner or detenu 
is given the advantage of a few minutes' conversation daily 
with a member of the prison staff, but this is an advantage 
which is not seized with cheering and acclamation. This 
policy of more or less solitary confinement is apparently 
quite deliberate on the part of the Government. I remember 
that about the time I was arrested in December 1931, Khan 


Abdul Ghaffar Khan was also arrested in Peshawar or 
Charsadda. Four arrest were made at the same time: Khan 
Abdul Ghaflfar Khan, his brother Dr. Khan Sahib, Dr. Khan 
Sahib's young son, and a colleague of theirs. They were 
all brought down by special train and distributed in four 
separate prisons in four different cities. It was easy enough 
to keep all of them, or father and son or brothers together. 
But this was deliberately avoided and each one was, I 
believe, kept alone and by himself without any companion. 
At any rate I know that Dr. Khan Sahib was so kept in 
Naini prison. For over a month I was also in Naini then 
but we were kept apart and not allowed to meet. It was 
.tantalizing for me, for Dr. Khan Sahib was a dear friend 
of my student days in England and I had not met him for 
many years. 

It is not a question of favoured treatment for political 
prisoners. I know perfectly well that the treatment of poli- 
ticals will grow progressively worse, as it has done in the 
course of the last dozen years. The only possible check is 
that of public opinion, but even that does not count in the 
last resort unless it is so strong as to ensure victory. 

Thus it is obvious that political prisoners must expect 
progressively bad treatment. In 1930-31 the treatment 
was worse than in 1921-22, in 1932 it was worse than in 
1930-3 1. To-day an ordinary political prisoner is certainly 
worse off in gaol than a non-political convict. Every effort 
is often made to harass him into apologising or at least to 
make him thoroughly frightened of prison. 

It has been stated on behalf of Sir Samuel Hoare in the 
House of Commons that "over 500 persons in India were 
whipped during 1932 for offences in connection with the 


civil disobedience movement." The existence or otherwise 
of whipping is often considered a test of the degree of civil- 
ization in a State. Many advanced States have done away 
with it altogether and even where it has been retained, it 
has been kept for, what are considered, the most degrading 
and brutal crimes, such as violent rape on immature girls. 
Some months ago, I believe, there was a discussion in the 
Assembly on the question of retaining the punishment of 
whipping for certain (non-political) crimes. It was poin- 
ted out by Government spokesmen that this was necessary 
for some brutal crimes. Probably every psychologist and 
psychiatrist is of a contrary opinion and holds that a brutal 
punishment is the most foolish of methods for dealing with 
brutal crimes. But, however that may be, in India we see 
that it is quite a common occurrence now for flogging to 
be administered for purely political and technical offences, 
admittedly involving no moral turpitude, or for petty 
offences against prison discipline. 

Yet another advance has been recorded in the treat- 
ment of women political prisoners'. Many hundreds of 
women were sentenced and an extraordinarily small num- 
ber of them were put in 'A' or 'B' classes. As it happens, 
the lot of women in prison political or non-political is 
far worse than that of men. Men do move about within 
the gaol in going to and fro in connection with their work; 
they have change and movement and this is helpful in re- 
freshing their minds to some extent. Women, though 
given lighter work, are closely confined in a small place 
and lead a terribly monotonous existence. Women con- 
victs are also as a rule far worse as companions than the 
average male convicts. Among men there is a large pro- 
portion of thoroughly non-criminal types, decent village 


folk who had a brawl over a land dispute and managed to 
get long sentences as a result. The criminal element is 
proportionately much higher among the women. The 
great majority of women political prisoners, most of them 
bright young girls, had to endure this suffocating atmos- 
phere. It seems to me that hardly anything that has 
taken place in our prisons or outside is quite so bad as 
the treatment of our women folk. 

I would not have any women, whether she belongs 
to the middle classes or the peasantry or the working class- 
es, subjected to the treatment that has been accorded to 
them in our prisons. As it happens, the great majority 
of women political prisoners have been from the bour- 
geois or middle classes. The peasant may go to prison 
for a political purpose but his wife goes very seldom. 
Considered from the standpoint of Government, the social 
standards of the women politicals were relatively high. 
Wives of vakils, bank managers and the like were placed 
in e C* class. Ladies who had been my honoured hostesses 
and in whose houses I had stopped, were sent to the 'C' 

In the course of a speech in the U. P. Legislative 
Council last year, the then Home Member, made the flesh 
of members creep by suggesting that if conditions in gaols 
were improved for politicals, all the dacoits would forth- 
with come to gaol as political prisoners. I believe he ad- 
vanced some similar argument against improving the con- 
dition of women prisoners. No doubt these arguments 
were up to the intellectual standards of the majority of 
his audience and they served their purpose. For those of 
us who live in the outer darkness, it is interesting to plumb 
the depths of knowledge and understanding which the 


Home Member's statement revealed understanding of 
the nature of dacoits and the like, knowledge of cri- 
minology, psychology and human nature. The arguments 
lead us to certain conclusions which perhaps did not occur 
to the Home Member. If a dacoit is prepared to leave 
his profession and go to gaol, if gaol is not too harsh, it 
follows that he will be much more prepared to quit dacoity 
and crime if a minimum of security and life's necessaries 
come to him outside gaol. That is, the urge to dacoity is 
the economic urge of hunger and distress; remove this 
urge and dacoity goes. The cure for dacoity and crime 
is thus not heavy punishment but removal of the basic 
cause. But I have no desire to make last year's Home 
Member responsible for such far-reaching and revolution- 
ary notions, although they may logically follow from 
what he said. From another and a higher office he has 
been letting us have occasional glimpses of his deep know- 
ledge of the laws of economics and no doubt he would 
repudiate such heresy. 

Reference is often made to political prisoners and 
Government has refused to classify them separately. I 
think, under the circumstances, Government has been 
right. For who are the politicals? It is easy enough to 
separate the civil disobedience prisoners, but there are 
many other ways of catching an inconvenient political 
agitator than under the so-called political sections of 
various laws and ordinances. It is a common occurrence 
in rural areas for peasant leaders and workers to be run 
in under the preventive sections of the Criminal Procedure 
Code or even for more serious offences. Such persons 
are as much political prisoners as any others and there are 
large numbers of them. This procedure is not usual in 


the larger towns because of the publicity involved. 

High walls and iron gates cut off the little world of 
prison from the wide world outside. Here in this prison 
world every thing is different; there are no colours, no 
changes, no movement, no hope, no joy for the long term, 
prisoner, the 'lifer'. Life runs its dull round with a ter- 
rible monotony; it is all flat desert land with no high points 
and no oases to quench one's thirst or shelter one from 
the burning heat. Days run into weeks, and weeks into 
months and years till the sands of life run out. 

All the might of the State is against him and none 
of the ordinary checks are available. Even the voice of 
pain is hushed, the cry of agony cannot be heard beyond 
the high walls. In theory there are some checks and visi- 
tors and officials from outside go to inspect. But it is, 
rare for a prisoner to dare to complain to them, and those 
who dare have to suffer for their daring. The visitor goes, 
the petty gaol officials remain, and it is with them that 
he has to pass his days. It is not surprising that he pre- 
fers to put up with his troubles rather than risk an addi- 
tion to them. 

The coming of political prisoners in large numbers 
threw some light into the dark corners of prison-land. 
A breath of fresh air came in bringing with it some hope 
to the long-term prisoner. Public opinion was stirred 
a little and some improvements followed. But they were 
few and essentially the system remains as it was. Some- 
times one hears of 'riots' in gaols. What exactly does 
this signify? Perhaps the prisoners were to blame. And 
yet it is a mad thing to do for unarmed, helpless prisoners, 
surrounded by high walls, to challenge the armed might 
of the gaol staff. There can only be one outcome of it, 


and inevitably one is led to think that only extreme pro- 
vocation could induce the prisoners to this act of folly 
and despair. 

There are enquiries, either departmental or perhaps 
by the District Magistrate. What chance has the prison- 
er? On the one side a fully prepared case supported 
by the staff and the numerous prisoners who must do 
their bidding; on the other, a frightened shivering out- 
caste of humanity, manacled and fettered, who has no 
one's sympathy and whom no one believes. The Judicial 
Secretary to the U. P. Government stated in the local 
Council last November that those who had been confined 
in gaol, being interested parties, must be considered as 
unreliable. So the poor prisoner being very much an in- 
terested party when he is himself beaten or ill-treated can- 
not obviously be believed. It would be interesting to 
find out from the U. P. Government what evidence, short 
of the testimony of the invisible and supernatural powers, 
a prisoner could produce under the circumstances. 

But for the tragedy behind them one might appreci- 
ate the humour of private governmental enquiries. 
Sir Samuel Hoare grows righteously indignant whenever 
any charge is made against the police or the gaol staffs and 
is consistent in refusing all public or impartial enquiries. 
I seem to recollect that there was a departmental enquiry 
in the Hijli affair about two years ago, and shortly after- 
wards an official enquiry held that the official version of 
the occurrences had been entirely wrong. But then 
that was an unusual affair. Most departmental enquiries 
are not checked in this way. One feels like having re- 
course to the delightful plays of Sir William Gilbert for an 
analogy, or perhaps that classic of English childhood, the 


immortal Alice, is even more suitable: 

Fury said to a mouse, 

That he found in the house. 

Let us both go to law: 

I will prosecute you. 

We must have the trial ; 

For really this morning 

I've nothing to do\ 

Said the mouse to the cur, 

*Such a trial, dear sir, 

With no jury or judge, 

Would be wasting your breath. 9 

ril be judge, Til be jury, 

Said cunning old fury, 

Til try the whole cause 

And condemn you to death. 3 

I had a personal experience last year which has a cer- 
tain wider significance. The jailor of the Allahabad 
District Jail insulted and hustled out my mother and 
wife when they were having an interview with my 
brother-in-law. I was angry when I heard this. And yet 
I did not attach much importance to the incident for all 
it signified was that an ill-trained and ill-mannered official 
had misbehaved. I expected some expression of regret 
from some higher official. Instead, punishments were 
awarded by Government to my mother, wife and brother- 
in-law, of course without the slightest reference to them. 
Indirectly I was punished by not being allowed to see 
my mother or wife for a period. An enquiry from me 
to the Inspector-General brought a brief reply contain- 
ing an unmannerly reference to my mother. It was only 
at this stage that Government found out the true facts 


from me and from statements made by my mother and 

It was obvious that they had erred egregiously. In 
spite of my asking them repeatedly they have not pointed 
out any error in our statements and I must therefore 
take it that they accept those versions as indeed they 
must. If so, they had acted very foolishly in the first in- 
stance and the least they could do was to express regret. 
I am still waiting for that straightforward expression of 

If such treatment can be accorded to my mother and 
wife and can be followed by the strange behaviour and 
obstinacy of Government, it can well be imagined what 
the average less-known prisoner and his people have to put 
up with. Our whole system of Government, super- 
imposed as it is from above and without any roots in the 
people, can only hang together so long as one peg supports 
the other. That is its strength, and that, fortunately, is 
its weakness, for where the collapse of such a system 
comes, it is complete. 

Last year I ventured to write to the Home Member 
from prison and I told him that after twelve years of a 
fairly extended experience of prison conditions in the 
U. P., I had come very regretfully to the conclusion that 
the gaols in the province were steeped in corruption and 
violence and falsehood. Many years ago I pointed out 
some of the abuses to a Superintendent of my prison (he 
became Inspector-General afterwards). He admitted 
them and said that when he first joined the Prison Depart- 
ment he was full of enthusiasm for reform. Later he 
found that little could be done, so he allowed things to 
take their course. 


Indeed little can be done by the best of individuals 
and many of those in charge can hardly be considered 
shining examples. An Indian prison is after all a replica 
of the larger India. What counts is the objective is it 
human welfare or just the working of a machine or the 
preservation of vested interests? Why are punishments 
given as society's government's revenge or with the 
object of reforming? 

Do judges or prison officers ever think that the un- 
happy wretch before them should be made into a person 
capable of filling his place in society when he comes out 
of prison? It almost seems an impertinence to raise these 
questions for how many people really care? 

Our Judges are, let us hope, large-hearted; they are 
certainly long-sentencing. Here is an "Associated Press" 
message from Peshawar dated December 15, 1932: "For 
writing threatening letters to the Inspector-General of 
Police and other high officials of the Frontier soon after 
the Coldstream murder, accused named Jamnadas has 
been sentenced by the City Magistrate of Peshawar to 
eight years' imprisonment under Section 500-507 I. P. C." 
Jamnadas was apparently a young boy. 

Here is another remarkable instance also an A. P. 
message, dated April 22, 1933 from Lahore: "For being 
in possession of a knife with a blade seven inches long, 
a young Muslim named Saadat was sentenced by the City 
Magistrate under Section 19 of the Arms Act to 18 
months' rigorous imprisonment." 

And a third instance from Madras, dated July 6, 
1933. A boy named Ramaswami threw a harmless cracker 
In the court of the Chief Presidency Magistrate as he was 
engaged in a conspiracy case hearing. Ramaswami was 


sentenced to four years, apparently in a Juvenile Prison. 

These are three not unusual instances. They could 
easily be multiplied and there are worse cases. I suppose 
people are long suffering in India and past all astonishment 
at such amazing sentences. Personally I find that no 
amount of practice can prevent my gasping when I read 
of them. Anywhere else, except in Nazi Germany, such 
sentences would create a tremendous outcry. 

And justice is not entirely blind in India; it keeps one 
eye open. In every agrarian brawl or riot large numbers 
of peasants get life sentences. Usually these petty riots 
take place when an exasperated tenantry are goaded be- 
yond endurance by the agents of the landlords. A 
simple process of identifying all those who are supposed 
Co have been present on the scene is enough to condemn 
them for life or to long terms of imprisonment. Hardly 
any attention is paid to the provocation and even the 
identification is usually of the feeblest kind. It is easy to 
drag in any individual who is in the bad books of the 
police. If the affair can be given a political tinge or con- 
nected with a no-rent campaign a conviction is all the 
easier and the sentences the heavier. 

In a recent case a peasant who slapped a tax-collector 
was awarded a year's imprisonment. Another instance is 
somewhat different. It took place last July in Meerut. A 
Naib-Tahsildar went to realise irrigation dues from the 
residents of a village. One peasant was carried by the 
peons to where the Naib was seated and the peons com- 
plained that this man's wife and son had beaten them. 
A somewhat remarkable story. However the Naib ordered 
that the peasant should be vicariously punished for his wife's 
offence and the three of them, the Naib and the two peons, 


beat the unhappy man with sticks. As a result of the beat- 
ing the man died later. The Naib and the peons were sub- 
sequently tried and convicted for simple hurt but they 
were forthwith released on probation of good conduct for 
six months. The good conduct I suppose signified that 
they must not beat another man to death within the next 
six months. The comparison of these cases is instructive. 

So the question of prison reform leads us inevitably to 
a reform of our criminal procedure and, even more so, a re- 
form in the mentalities of our judges who still think in 
terms of a hundred years ago and are blissfully ignorant of 
modern ideas of punishment and reform. That of course 
leads, as everything else does, to a change of the whole 
system of government. 

But to confine ourselves to the prisons. Any reform 
must be based on the idea that a prisoner is not punished but 
reformed and made into a good citizen. (I am of course 
not considering politicals. Most of them are so much 
steeped in error that they may be considered past reform) . 
If this objective is once accepted, it would result in a com- 
plete overhauling of the prison system. At present few 
prison officials have even heard of such a notion. I have a 
recollection that the old U. P. Jail Manual had a para- 
graph pointing out that the prisoner's work was not meant 
to be productive or useful; its object was punitive. This 
was almost an ideal statement of what a prison should not 
be. That paragraph has since gone but the spirit still 
remains a spirit that is harsh and punitive and utterly 
lacking in humanity. The list of prison offences in the 
U. P. Jail Manual is an amazing one. It contains all that 
the wit of man can devise to make life as intolerable as 
possible. Talking, singing, loud laughing, visiting latrines 


at other than stated hours, not eating the food given, etc., 
etc., are among the offences. It is not surprising that all 
the energy of the gaol staff goes in suppressing the prisoner 
and preventing him from doing the hundred and one things 
forbidden him. 

Ignorant people imagine that if the punishment is not 
severe enough crimes will increase. As a matter of fact, the 
exact reverse is the truth. A century ago in England, 
petty thieves were hung. When it was proposed to abolish 
the death penalty for thieves, there was a tremendous out- 
cry and noble lords stated in the House of Lords that this 
would result in thieves and robbers seizing everything and 
creating a reign of terror. As a matter of fact the reform 
had the opposite effect and crime went down. Crime has 
steadily gone down in England and other countries as the 
criminal law and prisons have been bettered. Many old 
prisons in England are not required as prisons now and are 
used for other purposes. In India, it is well-known that 
the prison population goes on increasing (quite apart from 
political prisoners) and the executive and judiciary help in 
this process by encouraging long and barbarous sentences. 
The imprisonment of the young is universally considered 
to be a most demoralising system and is avoided. Here in 
India gaols are full of young men and boys and frequently 
they are sentenced to whipping. 

Another error which people indulge in is the fear that 
if gaol conditions are improved people will flock in! This 
shows a singular ignorance of human nature. No one 
wants to go to prison however good the prison might be. 
To be deprived of liberty and family life and friends and 
home surroundings is a terrible thing. It is well-known 
that the Indian peasant will prefer to stick to his ancestral 


soil and starve rather than go elsewhere to better his con- 
dition. To improve prison conditions does not mean that 
prison life should be made soft; it means that it should 
be made human and sensible. There should be hard work, 
but not the barbarous and wasteful labour of the 
oil pumps or water pumps or mills. The prison 
should produce goods either in large-scale modern factories 
where prisoners work, or in cottage industries. All 
work should be useful from the point of view of the prison 
as well as the future of the prisoner, and the work should 
be paid for at market rates, minus the cost of maintenance 
of the prisoner. After a hard eight-hour day's work the 
prisoners should be encouraged to co-operate together in 
various activities games, sports, reading, recitals, lectures. 
They should above all be encouraged to laugh and develop 
human contacts with the prison staff and other prisoners. 
Every prisoner's education must be attended to, not only 
in just the three R's, but something more, wherever 
possible. The mind of the prisoner should be cultivated 
and the prison library, to which there must be free access, 
should have plenty of good books. Reading and writing 
should be encouraged in every way and that means that 
every prisoner should be allowed to have writing materials 
and books. Nothing is more harmful to the prisoner than 
to spend 12 to 14 hours at a stretch every evening locked 
up in the cell or barrack with absolutely nothing to do. A 
Sunday or holiday means for him a much longer period of 
locking up. 

Selected newspapers are essential to keep the prisoner 
in touch with the world, and interviews and letters should 
be made as frequent and informal as possible. Personally, 
I think that weekly interviews and letters should be per- 


mitted. The prisoner should be made to feel as far as 
possible that he or she is a human being and brutal and 
degrading punishments must be avoided. 

All this sounds fantastic when compared with pre- 
sent-day prison conditions in India. And yet I have only 
suggested what the prisons of most of the advanced coun- 
tries already have. Indeed they have much more. Our 
present administration, and indeed our Government itself, 
cannot understand or appreciate this as they have success- 
fully imprisoned their own minds in prisons of dull routine. 
But public opinion must begin to demand these changes so 
that, when the time comes, they might be introduced with- 
out difficulty. 

It must not be thought that these changes will involve 
much extra expenditure. If properly run on modern 
industrial lines the prisons can not only be self-supporting 
but can actually make a profit after providing for all the 
additional amenities suggested. There is absolutely no 
difficulty in introducing the changes except one the 
absolute necessity of having a competent, human staff fully 
understanding and appreciating the* new angle of vision 
and eager to work it. 

I wish some of our people would study and, where 
possible, personally inspect, prison conditions in foreign 
countries. They will find how our prisons lag far behind 
them. The new human element is imposing itself every- 
where, as also a recognition of the fact that a criminal is 
largely created by social conditions and, instead of being 
punished, has to be treated as for a disease. Real criminals 
are infantile in mind and it is folly to treat them as grown- 
ups. A delightful book which stressed this point 
humorously long ago is Samuel Butler's "Erewhon." 


In thfe prisons of the little country of Latvia even, 
we are told that "everything is done to create a homely 
atmosphere in the rooms and cells with plants, flowers, 
books and such personal belongings of the prisoners as 
photographs, handicrafts, and wireless sets." Prisoners are 
paid for their work, half the earnings accumulating and 
the other half being spent by prisoners on extra food, 
tobacco, newspapers, etc. 

Russia, that terrible land of the Soviets, has perhaps 
gone farthest ahead in the improvement of prison condi- 
tions. Recently a competent observer inspected the 
Soviet prisons and his report is interesting. This observer 
was an eminent English lawyer, D. N. Pritt, K. C. who is 
also the Chairman of the Howard League for Penal Re- 
form an organization which has been the pioneer of 
prison reform in England for more than sixty years. Pritt 
tells us that the punitive character of punishment has been 
entirely removed and it is considered purely reformatory 
now. The treatment of prisoners is humane and remark- 
ably good. 

There are two types of prisons: (1) Semi-open 
camps or fully open communes or colonies. These are 
really not prisons at all; prisoners live a village life subject 
to certain restrictions. (2) Closed prisons. These are 
the hardest type of prisons and yet even here there is a sur- 
prising amount of freedom for the prisoners. There is a 
feeling of equality between warders and prisoners and 
unrestricted intercourse, except in working hours, with 
other prisoners or with guards. There is normal factory 
work for eight hours a day at normal wages. For the rest 
there are games, education, gymnastics, lectures, wireless, 
books, and amateur dramatic performances by the 


prisoners. The prisoners also produce a wall newspaper 
and do not hesitate to criticize warders and other prison 
officials in it "for having forgotten that a prison is not 
for punishment, but for reformation." 

The principle of self-government, which is encouraged 
in all institutions in Russia, is even practised to some extent 
in the prisons, the prisoners imposing penalties on them- 
selves. Smoking is allowed except when at work. 
Frequent interviews are permitted and a virtually unres- 
tricted and uncensored writing and reception of letters. 
And, most remarkable rule of all, almost always the 
prisoner is allowed a fortnight's summer holiday to go 
home to look after the harvest, etc. In the case of a 
woman prisoner who has a baby, she can either keep the 
baby in the prison creche, where the baby will be properly 
looked after or leave the baby at liome. In the latter 
event the mother is allowed to go home several times a day 
to feed it! 

There were flowers, pictures and photographs in the 
cells. Prisoners were regularly examined by psychiatrists 
to find out if their mental condition was satisfactory. 
Whenever necessary, prisoners were removed to mental 
hospitals for treatment. Solitary confinement was very 

Hardly credible. And yet there it is and the results 
of this humane treatment have been surprisingly good. 
The Russians hope to reduce crime substantially and to 
shut up most of their prisons. So the good treatment does 
not eventually fill up the gaols but empties them, provided 
the economic background is suitable and work is to be had. 

A short while ago there was a meeting in the House 
of Commons to consider the protection of animals in India. 


A Very laudable object. But it is worth remembering 
that the two-legged animal, homo sapiens, in India is also 
worthy of care and protection especially those who un- 
dergo the long physical and mental torture of prison life 
and come out impaired of the capacity for normal life. 

Every prison cell in Norway has an inscription on its 
walls. It is a quotation from a speech of a famous Nor- 
wegian prisoner, Lars Olsen Skrefsund, who served a long 
sentence for theft when drunk, came out to India after- 
wards and founded the Scandinavian Santal Mission. He 
became a great linguist knowing seventeen languages, 
ancient and modern, and among them of course was the 
Santal language. The passage in his speech which is ex- 
hibited in the prison cells runs as follows: 

"Nobody can imagine what a prisoner feels but one 
who has at some time felt what it is to be a prisoner. Some 
idea of it may be formed, but this cannot express the 
feelings of the man who sits, sad and forsaken in his cell.*' 

It is well that those whom fate or fortune keep out 
of the prison cell give thought sometimes to that sad and 
forsaken figure. 


(This statement was issued to the press on Sept. 13, 1933) 

Sir Harry Haig has done me the honour of referring 
to me in that august and ponderous assembly, the Council 
of State. He has mentioned the fact that one of my first 
public acts after my release from prison was to add my 
name to the manifesto about the condition of prisoners in 
the Andaman Islands. Evidently, he expected that a long 
stay in prisons in India must have dulled my feelings of 
humanity and my sensibility to human suffering. 

I am glad to assure him that I have managed to retain 
these feelings and sentiments inspite of the course of treat- 
ment that the Government in India has prescribed for 
me from time to time. Indeed, the manifesto expressed 
very feebly what I felt in the matter. 

Personally, I was not very dtfsirous of making any 
demands on the Government however obvious and hu- 
manitarian they might be, through this manifesto, for, 
long experience has taught me that humanity or reason 
has little place in the mental equipment of some of the 
high officials of the Government. 

Indeed, I had pointed this out in my letter which 
apparently was not published, to the originators of the 
manifesto. Apart from other considerations, I am per- 
fectly happy to have my name included in the "list of 
miscellaneous signatures", which contains the honoured 
names of Dr. Rabindranath Tagore and Acharya P. C, 


I am an admirer of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, 
but I have not taken my ideas of crime and punishment 
from them. Sir Harry Haig, no doubt, has taken his ideas 
from the Mikado, that monarch whose "object all sublime" 
was to "make the punishment fit the crime", and is prac- 
tising these Gilbertian theories on the unhappy prisoners 
in Indian prisons and especially in prisons in the Anda- 
mans. He will excuse us. I trust, if we are unable to 
appreciate this royal example and still cling to humanita- 
rian notions and to the belief that all human beings should 
be treated as human beings and that all imprisonment 
should be reformatory and not punitive, vindictive and 

M. N. ROY 

I met him first in Moscow in November 1927. I had 
heard a great deal about him and had read his brilliant 
book on the Indian problem and so I looked forward with 
interest to this meeting, and I was not disappointed. 

Six feet tall and well built physically, M. N. Roy 
was a fine specimen of Indian humanity. Intellectually, 
he was alert and keen and even a few minutes conversation 
impressed me with his unusual ability. He was obviously 
a man of intellect, and yet he was something more. He 
was a man of action also, trying always to fit his action to 
his thought and ever eager to seize any opportunity that 
might offer itself. Firmly convinced of the Marxist view 
of economics and politics and life, he was devoted to the 
great cause as he conceived it. But he had the pride of 
intellect also and he was not of the sort that follows 
another blindly and without questioning. 

I was impressed by him. Evidently he was not im- 
pressed by me and during the years that followed he wrote 
many an article in bitter criticism of me and my kind, 
whom he dubbed, with considerable truth, as petty bour- 
geois. He used hard words which stung, but the memory 
of our brief meeting remained fresh in my mind and I 
retained a partiality and a soft corner in my heart for him. 

Years passed. One day in 1931 I was surpised to find 
that a stranger who had called on me was none other than 
M. N. Roy. I had not expected him, I did not even know 
that he was in India, but I recognised him immediately 
and was delighted to meet him. 

M. N. ROY 111 

He had come back to his homeland, after a long 
absence of about fifteen years, under strange circumstances. 
He was one of those who were bitterly disliked by the 
British authorities and a return to the lands where the 
Union Jack was supreme meant, almost certainly, prison 
and suffering. He knew this full well and yet he came. 
He had disagreed on some grounds of policy and tactics 
with the predominant Stalin group in the Soviet Union 
and any pronounced disagreement was not welcomed there. 
So he left Russia. 

But he was not the man to remain idle. The cause 
called him and the call was too powerful to be ignored. 
All the pent up energy of the man of intellect and action 
pushed him inevitably to his homeland though he knew 
the fate that awaited him there. 

That fate met him some months after his return. 
None of us could do much for him and yet I wanted to 
be of some service to him, to show somehow in what regard 
I held him. I joined his defence committee because of 
this desire of mine though I knew that such committees 
are of little real use in India at present and I had little 
faith in them. 

To-day he lies in the Bareilly Central Prison and for 
nearly two years and a half he has been in gaol. He is ill 
and is said to suffer from a serious constitutional disease. 
For long unused to a hot climate, he has had to endure 
the terrible summer heat of Northern India in the hard 
and painful surroundings of a prison. The usual facilities 
which were granted to some of us in prison are denied 
him and, it appears, that even books and writing materials 
are severely restricted. For an intellectual that is the 
hardest trial of all. 


And so he wastes away and his bright young life, 
which had already shown such rich promise, slides down- 
hill to the brink. Such is the fate of one of the bravest 
and ablest of India's sons of the present generation. We 
are poor enough in human material and it is a tragedy to 
see the waste of the lives of those who have the ability and 
capacity to do so much for their country, while others 
whom nobody can accuse of possessing any intellect or 
ideals or even decent feelings occupy the seats of power 
land authority. But it is wrong to think that their lives 
are wasted. They serve the cause better in this silent way 
than many who shout from the housetops. 


An article sent to the "Daily Herald" of London in 
October 1933 and subsequently published by it. 

It is not easy to write briefly on the Indian situation 
for the information of the British public* Partisan and 
one-sided propaganda has held the field there for so long 
that every vital issue has been confused and a totally false 
impression created of conditions in India. Even in India, 
during the last three or four years, Ordinance rule, which 
is close cousin to martial law under certain legal forms, 
and a rigid censorship of the press have suppressed not 
only expressions of opinion but even news that was un- 
palatable to British authorities in India. The newspaper 
press is bound hand and foot, public meetings on political 
issues are not allowed to be held, books and pamphlets, 
even those giving admitted facts, are proscribed, letters 
and telegrams are censored and sometimes do not reach 
their destination. It is an offence in many parts of the 
country to publish the names or photographs of people 
arrested under the Ordinances. Some months back even a 
memorial meeting on the anniversary of the death of 
Pandit Motilal Nehru was banned, though it was convened 
largely by non-Congressmen and a peaceful moderate like 
Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru was to have presided over it. In 
some parts of Bengal and in the Frontier Province there 
is a military occupation. Even children in Chittagong 
and Midnapore have to carry about cards of identity. 
The movements of people are strictly regulated, even their 


dress has often to conform to official directions and heavy 
fines are imposed on whole towns and villages to which 
the residents are made to contribute, regardless of guilt or 

British newspapers attack the Indian National move- 
ment from a variety of fronts, regardless of the obvious 
inconsistency of their statements. On the one hand, the 
Congress is said to be a reactionary body controlled by 
mill-owners and the like; on the other, no-rent campaigns 
are said to be the work of Bolsheviks and their kind, 
rousing up the peaceful peasantry by their artful agitation. 
Even well-informed newspapers give currency to state- 
ments which are entirely wrong and have no relation to 
facts. Some time ago, one of the best of the English 
weeklies stated as a fact that the movement against un- 
touchability and for the raising of the depressed classes 
was started by Mr. Gandhi's fast last year and that the 
Congress had closed its doors to these classes. As a matter 
of fact, the movement is an old one and it has been one 
of the biggest movements in India since 1920 when the 
Congress, at Mr. Gandhi's instance, made it a major plank 
in its programme. The Congress has never kept out the 
depressed classes and during the last thirteen years it has 
insisted on representatives of the depressed classes being 
elected to its highest executive committees. Mr. Gandhi's 
fast undoubtedly gave the movement a tremendous push. 

India and the East generally are supposed to be 
mysterious lands where strange peoples work in strange 
and peculiar ways and no real attempt is made to under- 
stand them. This magic view of history and geography 
may perhaps fit in with the somewhat romantic and un- 
worldly, and yet profitable, outlook of the average Con- 


servative or Liberal politician who has no other standards 
to go by. But Labour believes in a scientific and economic 
interpretation of history and current events and it is sur- 
prising that British Labour should suffer under the same 
delusion. Perhaps generations of imperialist domination 
have affected the ideology of British Labour and made it 
unable to take a correct and objective view where British 
imperialist interests are concerned. We are told by Labour 
leaders that nationalism is a narrow creed and, therefore, 
Indian nationalism is reactionary. Under cover of this 
doctrine they seek to perpetuate British Imperialism calling 
it by the highsounding title of the British Commonwealth 
of Nations. Nationalism is, of course, a reactionary force 
fun the modern world, whether it functions in England or 
India, but it is an inevitable reaction to imperialism in 
colonial countries, and a step which cannot be avoided in 
the march to real internationalisim. To defend any kind 
of imperialism by calling colonial nationalism as reactionary 
is sheer hypocrisy. 

It is a common place that great movements are not 
caused by individuals or a handful of agitators but are due, 
in the main, to economic forces. The Indian National 
movement arose in this way and in its early days was con- 
trolled by the upper middle class. It was not essentially 
hostile to imperialism, as this class itself was a product of 
British rule and wanted to fit itself into the fabric of impe- 
rialism. The march of economic events, however, wrought 
a change in it and the lower middle class and the declassed 
intellectuals began to dominate it. India played an important 
part in the great national wave that shook the whole of 
Asia after the Great War. A great national leader ins- 
pired the people and for the first time the masses, and 


especially the peasantry, took an effective part in the 
national struggle. In the afterwar years the association 
pf the masses with the Congress increased progressively 
and in some provinces the peasantry played an important 
role in formulating policy and in participating in direct 
{action. The industrial workers, especially in Bombay, 
built up a trade union movement and developed a revolu- 
tionary ideology. As an organised group they did not 
co-operate with Congress but they were powerfully in- 
fluenced by it and many took part in the Congress 
campaigns. At the same time Indian Labour carried on 
its own fight against capitalism by means of strikes. 

As the Congress became more radical and dependent 
on mass support, the Indian vested interests that were 
represented in it, became frightened and some of them 
dropped out. It was out of these leavings that the small 
and ineffective Moderate or Liberal group was formed. 
Association with the masses forced economic issues to the 
front in the Congress and a socialist ideology began to 
develop. A number of vaguely soeialist resolutions were 
passed from time to time and in 1931 the Congress took 
a more definite step in this direction by adopting an ecb- 
nomic programme at Karachi. 

The direct action struggle of the Congress during 
the last four years and the slump and rapid march of eco- 
nomic events in the world during this period have resulted 
in influencing the Congress powerfully in a socialist 
direction, and the struggle for independence has come 
more and more to mean a radical change in the social order 
to bring relief to the suffering masses. In a recent corres- 
pondence Mr. Gandhi declared that real independence 
must mean the de-vesting of the vested interests in India. 


The Congress still continues to be a national organization 
and as such includes in its fold many groups and classes 
which have conflicting social interests. But recent events 
have forced the economic issue to the forefront and, as a 
result, the Congress has become even more a mass organi- 
zation and the Indian vested interests, from the Princes 
downwards, have joined hands with British vested interests 
in India to resist all real political and social change. The 
Round Table Conference in London was such a grouping 
of vested interests. Thus inevitably our struggle for in- 
dependence is also becoming a struggle for social freedom. 

The word 'independence' is not a happy word, for it 
signifies isolation and there can be no such isolation or in- 
dependence in the modern world. But the word has to be 
used for want of a better one. It must not be understood, 
however, to mean that we want to cut ourselves off from 
the rest of the world. We do not believe in a narrow and 
aggressive nationalism. We believe in inter-dependence 
and international co-operation, but at the same time we are 
convinced that there can be no dependence whatever and 
ho real co-operation with imperialism. Thus we want 
complete independence from every kind of Imperialism. 
But that does not rule out the fullest co-operation with the 
British people or other peoples who do not wish to exploit 
us. With imperialism there can be and will be no compro- 
mise under whatever guise it may come. 

Essentially, therefore, our struggle for freedom is a 
Struggle for a radical change of the social structure and the 
ending of all exploitation of the masses. This can only be 
done by the de-vesting of the great vested interests in 
India. A mere process of changing officials,of 'Indianisa- 
tion', as it is called, of giving a high office to an Indian 


Instead of an Englishman, has no interest whatever for us. 
It is the system which exploits the masses of India that we 
object to and which must go before any effective relief 
comes to the masses. 

The Round Table Conferences in London have pro- 
ceeded on an entirely different basis. Almost their sole 
concern has been to protect every conceivable vested in- 
terest and make it impregnable, and to this crowd of para- 
sites they wish to add others. Thus the whole Round 
Table scheme instead of lessening the exploitation of the 
masses actually puts fresh burdens on them. We are told 
by the Secretary of State for India that the constitutional 
changes will involve extra-expenditure of many millions 
and, therefore, must wait till the world has got over its 
present economic discontents and India is more prosperous. 
He may have to wait a long time if he wishes these discon- 
tents to be solved according to his liking. His statement 
shows a singular lack of appreciation of what is happening 
in the world and what is likely to happen in the future. 
But even apart from that, it is an extraordinary instance 
of the powerful reasoning powers of Whitehall and the 
India Office. India is in a state of revolt because the work- 
ing classes, the peasantry and the lower middle classes are 
crushed by various kinds of exploitation. They want 
immediate relief; they want bread for their hungry sto- 
machs. Even the great majority of the landlords are being 
reduced to beggary as the land tenure system is breaking 
down. The remedy for this collapse and wide-spread 
misery is sought in propping up all the vested interests that 
have brought it about and in attempting to strengthen a 
semi-feudal order, which has long outlived its utility and 
is an obstacle to all progress. In addition to this, further 


burdens are cast on the masses. And then we are told that 
when conditions right themselves of their own accord, it 
will be time enough to introduce changes. 

It is manifest that this method of procedure is the 
sheerest quibbling with a great problem affecting vast num- 
bers of human beings. The Round Table scheme, whether 
it is adopted by the British Parliament, as it is, or varied, 
will not solve a single problem in India. Much is made in 
England of the so-called 'die-hard' opposition to it, of the 
attacks of the Churchill-Lloyd group and of the defence 
bravely put up by Mr. Baldwin and others. So far as 
India is concerned, it views these mock battles with supreme 
unconcern, for, whatever the result of these may be, it will 
not affect her attitude to a scheme which is reactionary, 
absurd and unworkable to an extraordinary degree. The 
British Government may succeed in grouping together 
round itself all the backward, feudal, and reactionary 
groups in India, including even the bigoted religious obs- 
curantists who have been frightened by Mr. Gandhi's 
attacks on their strongholds. If it finds pleasure in this 
varied company, we have no complaint. It makes our 
task easier in bringing about a social change with a real 
political change. 

Thus so far as the Congress is concerned, the Round 
Table Conference and the Joint Select Committee have 
made no difference whatever to our struggle for freedom, 
except in so far as they have cleared issues and demonstrated 
that British imperialism stands for all that is reactionary 
in India. Under these circumstances the struggle for in- 
dependence and social change must go on. Indeed, it is 
not in the power of any individual or group to end this 
struggle. Even the Congress cannot do it, for the struggle 


for freedom is the natural result of economic condi- 
tions, and so long as these conditions continue they must 
find outlet in such a struggle. If the Congress leaders 
withdraw, other people and other organizations will take 
their place. 

A political solution of the struggle can only come 
when the Indian people can settle their own constitution 
in a popularly elected Constituent Assembly. Such an 
Assembly would also, I have no doubt, solve minority and 
other problems, which have assumed so much prominence 
because their solution has been entrusted not to popularly 
chosen spokesmen but to official nominees. It is these 
reactionary nominees who have refused to agree among 
themselves and made it appear that the Indian people can- 
not agree. The Indian people have never been given a 
real chance to solve the problem for themselves. So far 
as the Congress is concerned, it has little difficulty, as it has 
long been prepared to guarantee minority rights. 

The Congress does not want any power for itself. I 
am sure that it will willingly abide by the decision of the 
Constituent Assembly, and even dissolve itself as soon as 
Indian political independence is achieved. It is doubtful, 
however, if under existing conditions, or in the near future, 
such a Constituent Assembly can be held. The more this is 
delayed the more will the political problem of India become 
an economic one and the ultimate change will be social 
as well as political. The struggle for Indian freedom is 
essentially a part of the world struggle for the emancipation 
of the exploited everywhere and for the establishment of 
a new social order. 


Extracts from a letter to a correspondent in England 
which appeared in the "Manchester Guardian" of De- 
cember 15, W3. The letter was in answer to a 
letter received from the correspondent and many of 
the references are to the questions that had been put. 
I think you are right in saying that Mr. Gandhi has 
suppressed to some extent independent thought and ini~ 
tiative. Is that not inevitable when a great personality 
with a magnetic and extraordinary power of mass appeal 
arises? And yet, fundamentally, I think your statement 
is not wholly correct. There was very little independent 
political thought before what might be called the Gandhi 
era. Our middle-class politicians and intellectuals merely 
repeated some phrases which they had learnt from the 
nineteenth-century English liberal writers, regardless of 
their applicability to Indian conditions. Gandhi for the 
first time succeeded in pulling some of them out of these 
ruts and made them think along different lines, or, rather, 
act along different lines. This action and the course of 
events gradually forced a newer ideology vague and con- 
fused, no doubt, but with some relation to facts. 

But Gandhi's real contribution was not this change in 
the horizon of the intelligentsia or part of it, important 
as this was. It was the vast change he wrought in the 
mentality of the Indian masses. This was not just a 
Messiah-worship, as is often stated. There was certainly 
a great deal of the idea of a Messiah in the popular mind, 
and yet there was something far more. India has had 


and has to-day no lack of people who are called "mahat- 
mas" and reverenced, and even blindly obeyed by their 
followers. But the awakening that Gandhi brought about 
was definitely a political awakening of the masses. Gandhi 
was the political leader of India, not a religious one. Poli- 
tical subjects began to be discussed in the villages and the 
bazaars, quite divorced from religion and communalism. 
Thus, instead of suppressing political ideas, Gandhi actually 
did the reverse from a mass point of view. This sudden 
release from long-continued suppression, and the pro- 
gramme of open and defiant action that Gandhi put for- 
ward, worked an amazing change in the masses. A help- 
less and demoralised people looked up and gathered 
strength and confidence in themselves and began to hope. 
It is true that the new thought and action all ran 
along one channel. That was bound to happen in a mass 
movement. Some intellectuals who opposed the new trend 
were swept aside by the current, but this was largely be- 
cause they had proved themselves bankrupt in ideas, in- 
effective in action, and hopelessly* out of touch with 

Gandhi thus released thought from its old bondage 
and did not suppress it. The mass movement however, 
tended to enforce conformity. Even this conformity did 
not and could not stop the growth of new ideas. What it 
did was to kill or smother the lifeless ideology of the Indian 
moderates. To some extent it is true that other ideas more 
in fitness with modern conditions were also partly 
smothered in the process, but they were bound to survive, 
and they have grown. 

The conditions of the peasantry and the industrial 
workers are steadily deteriorating, and no real relief seems 


possible under existing conditions. The zemindar system, 
which prevails in some of the provinces, is hard hit. 
[Under this system the native pays revenue for his hold- 
ing direct to the Government of India.] The British 
Government is in a quandary. Politically it supports the 
zemindars in order to draw them to itself. Economically 
the zemindars are a nuisance to Government and are no 
longer required. The Government would like to increase 
its own revenue from land, and this can come only at the 
cost of the zemindar. The Government would also like 
to better the lot of the peasantry, partly in order to soothe 
them and prevent them from aggressive mass activity, 
and partly to increase their purchasing power so that they 
might consume foreign, and especially British, goods more. 
This would help British trade and also increase the Cus- 
toms revenue of the Central Government and thus give 
it much-needed relief. The poor zemindar does not fit 
with the scheme of things and yet for reasons of State 
policy he has to be patted on the back. 

I am strongly attracted towards Communism and I 
feel that the only reasonable and scientific explanation of 
history is the Communist one. I do not approve of many 
things that have taken place in Russia nor am I a Com- 
munist in the accepted sense of the word. But taking 
everything together I have been greatly impressed by the 
Russian experiment. 

I have a weakness for Oxford and what it stands for 
myself. If something like it, only with a broader base, 
could be retained, well and good. But even Oxford and 
its like are not worth the sacrifice of the wider mass culture 
and initiative that the right kind of Communism should 
bring forth. 


After all, the ultimate choice seems to be between 
some type of Communism or Fascism; the middle forms 
seem to fade off. Between these two all my mind and 
heart is for the former. 


(Statement issued to the press on December 18, 1933) 

The Indian press has been very kind and considerate 
to me and has given me numerous opportunities of giving 
publicity to my opinions. I must express my gratitude 
to it. But sometimes it gives me a shock and one of the 
biggest shocks that I have recently had has come today 
from the report of a so-called interview in Delhi given to 
certain foreign visitors. The "National Call of Delhi first 
gave publicity to this and I was amazed to read what I 
was supposed to have said. The Free Press Journal of 
Bombay has now gone a few steps further and in a seven- 
column headline announces that I have put my cards on 
the table and declared that I prefer Fascism to Commu- 
nism. I did not know that I had so far kept any cards up 
my sleeve. I have endeavoured during the last three 
months to give expression to my views in writings and 
speeches with as much clarity as I am capable of. Those 
views may be right or wrong but I had at least hoped that 
they were clear enough and no one could mistake them. 
To find that they were misunderstood and to be made to 
say the exact opposite of what I believe and mean to say 
comes as a shock and a disappointment. 

The report of the Delhi interview is so full of errors 
and misstatements that it is a little difficult to correct it, 
short of re-writing the whole of it afresh. I do not pro- 
pose to do so. I shall refer those who are interested in 
what I believe to read my writings on the subject. But 
one thing I wish to clear up and that is my attitude to 


Fascism and Communism. I do believe that fundament- 
ally the choice before the world today is one between some 
form of Communism and some form of Fascism, and I 
am all for the former, that is Communism. I dislike 
Fascism intensely and indeed 1 do not think it is anything 
more than a crude and brutal effort of the present capita- 
list order to preserve itself at any cost. There is no middle 
road between Fascism and Communism. One has to 
choose between the two and I choose the Communist ideal. 
In regard to the methods and approach to this ideal I may 
not agree with everything that the orthodox Communists 
have done. I think that these methods will have to adapt 
themselves to changing conditions and may vary in differ- 
ent countries. But I do think that the basic ideology of 
Communism and its scientific interpretation of history is 

I hope I have made myself clear. Only a person of 
unsound mind could express himself in the self -contra- 
dictory way which the reported interview makes out. 
Only a lunatic could favour Communism one day and 
Fascism the next day. I flatter myself that I am neither 
and claim to be sane and, perhaps, sober. 


A message sent to the "Indian Labour Journal" on 
the occasion of its eleventh anniversary in November 1933. 

During the great social and economic crisis that the 
world is passing through today, labour has a very special 
duty before it. For, inevitably, the burden of ideological 
leadership must remain with labour. In India, the na- 
tional struggle covers and hides social differences. That 
is natural. But world events themselves are today forcing 
the pace and making even national movements more and 
more economic and social movements. All over the world 
there is a great struggle between the forces of labour and 
the forces of entrenched vested interest. The stakes are 
high and therefore we cannot afford either in our national 
struggle or in our social struggle to compromise with petty 
changes. If we are to profit by the world situation, we 
must make up our minds to struggle for a complete and 
fundamental change of regime. Nothing else should 
satisfy us, nothing else can solve our problems. 

India is today in a somewhat confused state of mind. 
She finds that her old nationalist ideology does not fit in 
with the existing circumstances in the world. So she 
struggles to adopt a new way of thinking and this attempt 
to change over from the old to the new is a painful and 
confusing one. But the attempt must be proceeded with, 
for only thus by adopting a progressive ideology of social 
revolution, can India take an effective part in the freedom 
as well as in the world struggle. 


In such a social struggle labour has always occupied 
the foremost place. Indian labour therefore must wake 
up out of its lethargy, close up its ranks, and face the 
situation bravely and with confidence. It must give up 
its timid attitude and its demands for petty reforms and 
seek to play a part in the wider issue, which confront it 
and the world. Such opportunities come rarely. Our 
national struggle and our social economic struggle must 
join hands for the emancipation of the people of India, 

Labour represents the productive working class, that 
is to say, the class which economically and historically is 
the most important class of the future. It is therefore 
possible for Labour to have a much clearer ideology than 
for the Congress. Labour is in theory, the most revolu- 
tionary group in a country because it represents the forces 
of the future. But in India today, as in every country 
under alien domination, the national problem overshadows 
social problems and nationalism is more revolutionary than 
the social struggle. World events are, however, pushing 
economic issues more and more*to the front and even 
national organisations are becoming infected by such 

I am quite clear that labour should organise itself 
in the Trade Unions and the like quite separately. Other- 
wise it will get lost in mixed nationalist groups. At the 
same time Labour must recognise that nationalism is the 
strongest force in the country today and it must co- 
operate with it fully. It should also of course try to in- 
fluence it on the economic issues. 

I am not in theory against a Labour Political Party 
apart from the Congress, but I fear that any attempt to 
make such a party today will only result in the exploita- 


tion of Labour by a number of individuals who will try 
to advance themselves at the cost of labour. 

The National Congress is, as its name implies, a 
national organisation. Its purpose is national freedom for 
India. It includes many classes and groups which have 
really conflicting social interests, but the common national 
platform keeps them together for the moment. During 
the past years it has inclined towards a Socialist pro- 
gramme, but it is far from being socialist. 

I should personally like the Congress to go very much 
further and to adopt a full socialist programme. I recog- 
nise also that there are many groups in the Congress to- 
day who are ideologically very backward and desire to 
prevent the Congress from going ahead. Recognising all 
this, I have no doubt whatever, that the Congress has been 
far the most militant organisation in India during recent 
years. It seems to me perfectly ridiculous for people who 
do nothing effective themselves to accuse Congress of lack 
of militancy. There is a grave danger of most of our so- 
called socialist confining their militancy to catch phrases 
and drawing room parlours. 

For Congressmen who are also interested in labour 
affairs, the course of action should be as follows: They 
should function separately in labour organisations, trade 
unions etc., and help them to develop an ideology and pro- 
gramme of activity as militant as possible, even in advance 
of Congress programme. In the National Congress they 
should try to push on an economic orientation in conson- 
ance with the labour programme. Inevitably the Con- 
gress programme, so far as ideology goes, will not be as 
advanced as the labour programme. But it is quite possi- 
ble to have co-operation in militant activity. 


(A brief resume of the speech delivered at the 13th Session 
of the All-India Trade Union Congress at Cawnpore 
on December 23, 19)3). 

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, speaking at the All-India 
Trade Union Congress, said that he was addressing the 
Congress after about four years. These four years had 
seen great changes in India both in the National and the 
Trade Union movement. A great struggle of freedom 
had been carried on and was still being carried on. The 
Trade Union movement had been split up into various 
parts and he was not yet clear as to what each part stood 
for. During his period in prison he had been unable to 
follow the various developments in the labour world. He 
had tried to find out some facts recently but was still not 
in a position to know the exact situation. While he dep- 
lored the lack of unity he felt that to some extent it was 
inevitable as the struggle proceeded on. On one side 
there would be reformists and constitutionalists, and on 
the other revolutionary elements that wanted a radical 
change in the social and political structure. Much the 
same thing was happening in the National movement. 

The present position of Labour in India was deplora- 
ble. There was tremendous unemployment ancj the wages 
were cut down and living standard was reduced. Labour 
only met these attacks by presenting a united front. 
World conditions were such that mere crumbs would fall 
from the imperialists' and capitalists' table to the labour 


masses. As these conditions had deteriorated there was 
less and less to dispute. Therefore, the only way out for 
labour was to fight for a radical change which would give 
power. The labour method of fight was organisation and 
strike. Many petty strikes were taking place all over the 
country because of the attempts to lower wages. These 
individuals strikes were bound to fail. If they wanted 
them to succeed there should be coordination and organi- 
sation resulting when time came in a general strike to pre- 
vent the progressive cutting dowij of the wages. As a 
matter of fact the labour problem and the national pro- 
blem were both coming nearer to each other and had to 
face the ultimate issue that is to say, the removal of 
British imperialism from India. No other solution would 
satisfy either or bring relief to the masses. He hoped, 
therefore, that there would be an increasing amount of 
cooperation between the two great movements. The 
National movement could not of course drop its national 
character and become a purely labour movement. Nor 
could the labour movement become just a part of the 
national movement because it represented technically the 
class-conscious workers who were the most revolutionary 
elements in the population. But there was no reason why 
the two could not co-operate wherever possible. 

Some people said that after years of struggle our con- 
dition was worse than it was before. That was always so 
when a fight took place about fundamental matters. To- 
day imperialism and capitalism all over the world were 
fighting in the last ditch a battle to preserve themselves and 
it was up to labour to organise and strengthen themselves 
and put their whole weight in the struggle. If they did so 
and at the same time cooperated with the National move- 


ment and influenced it, he had no doubt that victory would 
come to them and not only would thereby bring political 
freedom in India but social freedom also. 


(Message sent to the Kajputana States 9 Peoples 9 Convention 
held at Beawar on December 29, 1933.) 

Recent events in India and England have made it clear 
that all the reactionary forces British and Indian are 
combining together to prevent or delay the freedom of 
the Indian people. These forces have tried to suppress our 
freedom movement and the White Paper is an attempt to 
consolidate the hold of all these vested interests. Nothing 
is more significant than the utterly reactionary attitude of 
the Indian Princes and the backing it received from the 

It is probable that free India will be a federation but 
it is quite certain that nothing even remotely resembling 
freedom can come out of the federation that has been 
suggesed in the White Paper. This proposed federation 
is merely meant to prevent India's growth and enchain 
her still further to feudal and out-of-date systems. It is 
quite impossible to progress from this federation to free- 
dom without breaking the federation to pieces. 

It seems to me, therefore, that all of us whether in the 
Indian States or the rest of India must appreciate this 
position clearly and realise that our only course is to reject 
utterly any such bogus federation. We must stick to the 
completest form of independence which means complete 
absence of foreign control as well as a fully democratic 
form of Government. The Indian States* system, as it 
exists to-day, must go root and branch. 


Your Convention will deal with many matters of 
present day importance such as the States' Protection Bill 
and the repression that is going on in the Indian States. 
These loom large before you but they are after all the 
inevitable products of the system as it exists to-day. 
Therefore I hope you will frame your objective clearly 
and uncompromisingly and draw up your programme 


(Calcutta Municipal Gazette November 25, 1933) 

Politics today are in a sorry mess all over the 
world and distraught politicians seek in vain for a remedy. 
Their old methods have failed completely and events have 
marched ahead leaving the old guard of politicians far be- 
hind. With the passing of politics from the centre of the 
world's stage, economics have appeared from behind the 
scenes and have dominated men and events. The old style 
of politician feels helpless before this transformation, but 
in the West, at any rate, he has been forced to bow down 
before the new gods and pay them homage. Not so in 
India where many of us still cling to outworn theories and 
discredited methods. 

The dominance of economics has brought new ideas 
and new theories in its train and the problems of the world 
are viewed in a new perspective. Out of this welter of 
ideas and theories has grown the scientific interpretation 
of history and politics and economics that is known as 
scientific socialism or Marxism or communism. Many 
learned books have been written on this subject and passions 
have been roused and bitter conflicts have taken place. 

There is one aspect of communism however which is 
easy to understand for the man in the street. Com- 
munism is in a way the municipalization of the country or 
the world. Of course this is a wholly insufficient defini- 
tion. None the less it does give us a glimpse of what 
underlies communism. The true civic ideal aims at com- 
mon possession and common enjoyment of municipal 


amenities, and these amenities go on increasing till they 
comprise almost everything that a citizen requires. Roads, 
bridges, lighting, water-supply, sanitation, hospitals and 
medical relief, libraries, education, parks and recreation 
grounds, games, proper housing, museums, art galleries, 
theatres, music are some of the activities that a modern 
up-to-date municipality should be interested in, and some 
of the amenities which it should provide free of cost to all 
its citizens. Communism means the extension and the 
application of this civic ideal to the larger group of the 
nation and ultimately to the world. And so the civic ideal 
becomes the national and the international ideal, and, with 
the passing of pure politics, civics becomes merged in the 
communist ideal of a scientific ordering of the world's 
affairs and a proper planning and control, on behalf of and 
for the benefit of the masses, of production and distribu- 
tion and the many other activities of the modern world. 


(The Citizen, Lucknow, December 1933). 

In the old days the state was looked upon almost as 
the private possession of the sovereign. His chief busi- 
ness was to tax his subjects and to protect them from 
external invasion and internal disorder from robbers and 
the like. Having given a certain measure of security 
to his people, his job was done. If he did this 
and did not impose too crushing a burden of 
taxation, he was looked upon as a good sovereign. 
Such states have been called 'police states' as the 
principal duties of the government were in the nature of 
police duties. Our Indian States today are more or less of 
this type, with this essential difference that they have not 
to protect themselves from external invasion. The 
British Government in India during the nineteenth century 
was also largely a police government. It did very little for the 
educational, cultural, industrial, medical and sanitary deve- 
lopment of the state. Gradually, however, it was forced by 
circumstances to interest itself in some of the multifarious 
activities of the modern state, though its interest did not go 
far and it produced very little in the shape of actual 

It was in the cities that the idea of providing some- 
thing more than protection for the citizen first developed. 
The close association of a large number of human beings in 
cities resulted in the growth of co-operative activities and of 
culture. The civic ideal begins to emerge, the idea that 
amenities for the common enjoyment of the citizens should 


be provided for. Roads and bridges which were privately 
owned and subject to tolls, became public property and 
free to all without payment. Sanitation, lighting, water- 
supply, hospitals and medical relief, parks and recreation 
grounds, schools and colleges, libraries and museums, be- 
came the functions of the municipality. To-day it is con- 
sidered the function of a municipality not only to provide 
all these free of any charge to all its citizens, but also to 
provide art-galleries, theatres, music and, most important 
of all, proper housing for every body. But obviously the 
basic need is for food and to present art and culture to a man 
who has no food is to mock him. Hence it is the business 
of a modern municipality today to see to it that no one 
starves within its confines; to provide work for those who 
are workless, and, if no work is to be had, to provide 
food. That is the civic ideal to-day, although few munic- 
ipalities approach it. In India, of course, we are still 
very far from even having a glimpse of the ideal. 

This civic ideal gradually captured the state and with 
it the activities of the state grew in all directions. The 
police state transformed itself into the modern state, a com- 
plex, paternal organism with a large number of departments 
and spheres of activities, and innumerable contacts with the 
individual citizen. Not only did it give him security from 
external invasion and internal disorder, but it educated 
him, taught him industries, tried to raise his standard of 
living, gave him opportunities for the development of cul- 
ture, provided him with insurance schemes to enable him 
to face an unforeseen contingency, gave him all manner 
of amenities, and made itself responsible for his work and 
food. The civic ideal was spreading. Today it has 
spread as far as it can under the existing social structure 


and it finds its further progress stopped so long as that 
structure remains what it is. 

The true civic ideal is the socialist ideal, the com- 
munist ideal. It means the common enjoyment of the 
wealth that is produced in nature and by human 
endeavour. That ideal can only be reached when the pre- 
sent social structure is changed and gives place to socialism. 


Some friends have asked me for my opinion on the 
proposed "All-Parties Conference" which has been sug- 
gested in Bombay. I should have thought that so far as 
Congressmen were concerned, or those who think along 
Congress lines, there was no room for doubt. We stand 
for independence and the fullest self-determination by the 
people of India without any interference by an alien autho- 
rity. It is obvious that any attempt to consider the 
White Paper and to try to improve it is incompatible with 
independence and self-determination. It is also incompat- 
ible with what is termed Dominion Status or even a small 
measure of political or economic freedom. Only those who 
are prepared to give up their oft-repeating objective, forget 
their pledges, and accept, not for today and tomorrow but 
for the distant future, the steel chains of British imperial- 
ism and political and financial and military control, can 
discuss the White Paper and its off -shoots. For Congress- 
men and others who work for a fundamental change in 
India there is going to be no compromise on this issue what- 
ever happens. For them therefore to associate themselves 
with any attempt to modify the White Paper would be a 
betrayal of all they stand for and a strengthening of the 
reactionary elements in the country. Whatever the motives 
of those who are sponsoring the so-called All Parties Con- 
ference may be, there can be no doubt to any political 
realist that their action is harmful to the country and in 
the interests of British imperialism. 

The White Paper, even with all the modifications that 


have been suggested by its liberal critics, would be worthy 
only of the waste paper basket, where no doubt it will 
find a refuge sooner or later. But it is well-known that 
no modifications are likely to materialize and yet those 
very gentlemen who tell us so meet together solemnly to 
discuss modifications. Self-deception could hardly go fur- 
ther; or is it that their urge somehow to cooperate with 
British imperialism is so great that it dims their vision? 

It seems to me clear that between those who continu- 
ously think of this cooperation and are always prepared to 
submit to every decision of the ruling power, and those 
who aim at independence, there is nothing in common. 
What are we to discuss if we meet together? 

Some newspapers, who have done me the honour of 
publishing my recent article on the Constituent Assembly, 
have put me a question. All this is very well, they say, 
but what of the present? I am afraid I can give no 
answer that can satisfy those who can think or act only in 
terms of an impotent constitutionalism. Constitutionalism 
is dead and the worms have already been at it and there is 
going to be no resurrection. Not even the National Con- 
gress can revive it by resolution for we have passed that 
historical stage of growth. Every national movement, 
every social movement, when it is strong enough to en- 
danger the existing order, passes that stage and cannot go 
back, though individuals and groups may collapse or retire. 
An impasse is created and this continues till the existing 
order breaks down. To suggest that the impasse should be 
resolved by an attempt to revive the corpse of constitution- 
alism is to ignore both historical precedent and existing 
facts, for the conditions that created the impasse continue 
and function more intensely and thus bring about a worse 


impasse. The only way out is to struggle through to the 
other side. Therefore the only possible answer to the 
question: what of the present, is: carry on the struggle 
for freedom without compromise or going back or 

No person who understands the implications of a 
Constituent Assembly imagines that it can meet under the 
distinguished patronage of the British government. Its 
patrons can only be the people of India. And because 
today the Indian people are held down by the imperialist 
machine, speaking and writing and meeting and press are 
suppressed and only a faithful echo of our rulers' wishes 
are permitted, there can be no Constituent Assembly. It 
will come in good time when the Indian people^ gain the 
upper hand. Not till then. And meanwhile all talk of 
"All Parties Conference" and "Conventions" is so much 
shadow talk not even resulting in shadow action. 

.January 11, 


Many years ago so much has happened during recent 
years that I have almost lost the exact count of time and 
even a few years seem long ago I had the honour of laying 
the foundation stone of the hall of the Mahila Vidyapitha. 
Since then I have been engrossed in the dust and tumble of 
politics and direct action, and the struggle for India's free- 
dom has filled my mind. I have lost touch with the Mahila 
Vidyapitha. During the last four months that I have been 
in the wider world outside the prison walls many a call has 
come to me and I have been invited to participate in a 
variety of public activities. I have not listened to these 
calls and have kept away from these activities, for my ears 
were open to only one call and all my energy was directed 
to one end. That call was the call of India, our unhappy 
and long-oppressed motherland, and especially of our suf- 
fering and exploited masses, and that end was the complete 
freedom of the Indian people. 

I have refused therefore to be drawn away from the 
main issue to other and minor activities, important as some 
of these were in their own limited spheres. But when 
Shri Sangam Lai came to me and pressed me to address the 
convocation of the Mahila Vidyapitha, I found it difficult 
to resist his appeal. For behind that appeal I saw the girls 
and young women of India, on the threshold of life, trying 
to free themselves from an age-long bondage and peeping 
into the future with diffidence and yet, as youth will, with 
the eyes of hope. 


I agreed therefore provisionally and diffidently for I 
was not sure if a more urgent call would not call me else- 
where. And now I find that urgent call has come from 
the sorely-afflicted province of Bengal and I must go there 
and I may not be back in time for the convocation of the 
Mahila Vidyapitha. I regret this and all I can do is to leave 
this message behind. 

If our nation is to rise, how can it do so if half the 
nation, if our womenkind, lag behind and remain ignorant 
and uneducated? How can our children grow up into self- 
reliant and efficient citizens of India if their mothers are not 
themselves self-reliant and efficient? Our history tells us of 
many wise women and many that were true and brave even 
unto death. We treasure their examples and are inspired by 
them, and yet we know that the lot of women in India 
and elsewhere has been an unhappy one. Our civiliza- 
tion, our customs, our laws, have all been made by man 
and he has taken good care to keep himself in a superior 
position and to treat woman as a chattel and a plaything 
to be exploited for his own advantage and amusement. 
Under this continuous pressure woman has been unable 
to grow and to develop her capacities to her fullest, and 
then man has blamed her for her backwardness. 

Gradually, in some of the countries of the West, 
woman has succeeded in getting a measure of freedom, but 
in India we are still backward, although the urge to pro- 
gress has come here too. We have to fight many social 
evils; we have to break many an inherited custom that 
enchains us and drags us down. Men and women, like 
plants and flowers, can only grow in the sun-light and 
fresh air of freedom; they wilt and stunt themselves in 
the dark shadow and suffocating atmosphere of alien 



For all of us, therefore, the first problem that pre- 
sents itself is how to free India and remove the many 
burdens of the Indian masses. But the women of India 
have an additional task and that is to free themselves from 
the tyranny of man-made custom and law. They will 
have to carry on this second struggle by themselves for 
man is not likely to help them. 

Many of the girls and young women present at the 
convocation will have finished their courses, taken their 
degrees, and prepared themselves for activities in a larger 
sphere. What ideals will they carry with them to this 
wider world, what inner urge will fashion them and govern 
their actions ? Many of them, I am afraid, will relapse 
into the humdrum day to day activities of the household 
and seldom think of ideals or other obligations; many will 
think only of earning a livelihood. Both these are no doubt 
necessary, but if this is all that the Mahila Vidyapitha has 
taught its students, it has failed of its purpose. For a 
university that wishes to justify itself must train and send 
out into the world knight-errants in the cause of truth 
and freedom and justice, who will battle fearlessly against 
oppression and evil. I hope there are some such amongst 
you, some who prefer to climb the mountains, facing risk 
and danger, to remaining in the misty and unhealthy 
valleys below. 

But our universities do not encourage the climbing 
of mountains; they prefer the safety of the lowlands and 
valleys. They do not encourage initiative and freedom; 
like true children of our foreign rulers, they prefer the 
rule of authority and a discipline imposed from above. 
Is it any wonder that their products are disappointing and 



ineffective and stunted, and misfits in this changing world 
of ours ? 

There have been many critics of our universities and 
most of their criticisms are justified. Indeed hardly any 
one has a good word for the Indian universities. But even 
the critics have looked upon the university as an upper class 
organ of education. It does not touch the masses. Educa- 
tion to be real and national must have roots in the soil 
and reach down to the masses. That is not possible today 
because of our alien government and our old-world social 
system. But some of you who go out of the Vidyapitha 
and help in the education of others must bear this in mind 
and work for a change. 

It is sometimes said, and I believe the Vidyapitha it- 
self lays stress on this, that woman's education should be 
something apart from that of man's. It should train her 
for household duties and for the widely-practised profes- 
sion of marriage. I am afraid I am unable to agree to 
this limited and one-sided view of women's education. I 
am convinced that women should be given the best of 
education in every department o| human activity and be 
trained to play an effective part in all professions and 
spheres. In particular, the habit of looking upon marri- 
age as a profession almost and as the sole economic refuge 
for woman will have to go before woman can have any 
freedom. Freedom depends on economic conditions even 
more than political and if woman is not economically free 
and self -earning she will have to depend on her husband or 
some one else, and dependents are never free. The asso- 
ciation of man and woman should be of perfect freedom 
and perfect comradeship with no dependence of one on 
the other. 


What will you do, graduates and others of the Vidya- 
pitha, when you go out ? Will you just drift and accept 
things as they are, however bad they may be ? Will you 
be content with pious and ineffective expressions of 
sympathy for what is good and desirable and do nothing 
more ? Or will you not justify your education and prove 
your mettle by hurling defiance at the evils that encompass 
you ? The purdah, that evil relic of a barbarous age, 
which imprisons the body and mind of so many of our 
sisters Will you not tear it to bits and burn the frag- 
ments ? Untouchability .and caste, which degrade 
humanity and help in the exploitation of one class by 
another will you not fight them and end them and thus 
help in bringing a measure of equality in this country ? 
Our marriage laws and many of our out-of-date customs 
which hold us back and especially crush our womenfolk 
will you not combat them and bring them in line with 
modern conditions ? Will you not also fight with energy 
and determination for the physical improvement of our 
women by games in the open air and athletics and sane 
Jiving so that India may be full of strong and healthy and 
beautiful women and happy children ? And, above all, 
will you not play a gallant part in the struggle for national 
and social freedom that is convulsing our country today ? 
I have put these many questions to you, but the 
answers to them have already come from thousands of 
brave girls and women who have played a leading part in 
our freedom struggle during the last four years. Who 
has not been thrilled at the sight of our sisters, unused as 
they were to public activity, leaving the shelter of their 
homes and standing shoulder to shoulder with their 
brothers in the fight for India's freedom ? They shamed 


many a person who .called himself a man, and they pro- 
claimed to the world that the women of India had arisen 
from their long slumber and would not be denied their 

The women of India have answered, and so I greet 
you, girls and young women of the Mahila Vidyapitha, 
and I charge you to keep that torch of freedom burning 
brightly till it spreads its lustre all over this ancient and 
dearly-loved land of ours. 

January 12, 1934-